Medical Malpractice for Healthcare Professionals
A summons is a court issued document which starts the litigation process. The summons states the names of the complainant, known as the plaintiff, and the defendant(s) against whom the case is made. The summons also includes the name of the court from which the summons is served and the case number.
A summons is usually a combination of two documents. The first is the summons itself, summoning the defendant/s to defend themselves against a claim and the second is the particulars of claim which sets out the plaintiff’s version of the facts of the case (including the relief sought from the court and the reasons for seeking that relief).
This is referred to as a combined summons but there are other kinds of summonses such as a simple summons and a provisional sentence summons. The most common of these is a combined summons and this is the kind of summons used for medical malpractice claims.
The summons is served upon a defendant by the sheriff of the court. When a summons is served on the defendant, it must either be served personally, or on a person who is older than 16 at the premises where the defendant is employed or resides. There are exceptions to this rule but for the purposes of a medical malpractice claim, this rule applies.
The summons will explain that the defendant must indicate within a specified time period whether he/she will defend the case, usually 10 business days from when the summons was served. If the defendant does not enter an appearance to defend within the specified number of days, the plaintiff can apply for default judgement.
This means that the relief sought by the plaintiff may be granted without any defence by the defendant. It is, therefore, very important to instruct an attorney to formally notify the court within these 10 days that the matter will be defended on your behalf.
You should familiarize yourself and all your staff who may receive a summons on your behalf with this note.
We will assist you by notifying the relevant insurer to check whether the claim is covered by the insurance contract.
We will assess the summons and recommend an attorney who should be instructed. This is, however, at the insurer’s discretion. We will then instruct the attorney to serve a copy of the Notice of Intention to Defend on the plaintiff’s attorney and then to file the original at court.
The attorneys that we instruct to defend you will contact you to set up a meeting to discuss the legal process as well as the claims made against you. The attorneys will need to be provided with all the patient’s records and a report from you prior to this meeting.
On receipt of your summons you should secure the patients records as well as any other information and documentation relevant to the cause of action. You must also identify and record the details of any witnesses who may assist your defence.
The next step will then be to file a plea. This is the defendant’s response to the plaintiff’s claims as set out in the particulars of claim. It is usually done with the help of an experienced advocate to protect your interests. The Natmed Medical Defence and your legal team will manage the legal process and will assist you in preparing for the trial. Expert witnesses may need to be identified and consulted and an advocate will be briefed to appear on your behalf and present your case at court.
Administration: 0860 NATMED (628 633)