Considerations for handling documentation while preparing a negligent credentialing defense

When faced with a negligent credentialing claim, it is absolutely essential to preserve the integrity of documentation that is in the hospital’s or healthcare entity’s possession. Take steps to ensure that information does not go missing. In most organizations, a risk manager will place the relevant credentials file in a separate locked location while litigation is pending or ongoing.

It is also critical to make sure that documents are not altered once litigation is underway. Once litigation commences, relevant secured documents should only be viewed under circumstances where any alteration is impossible or would be immediately detected. For example, many medical staffs will only allow a secured document to be reviewed in the presence of a risk manager, MSP, hospital executive, or medical staff officer.

Loss or alteration of documents can lead to a legal claim of spoliation of evidence. This term refers to the intentional, reckless, or negligent withholding, hiding, alteration, fabrication, or destruction of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding. In some jurisdictions, intentional spoliation is considered a criminal act and can result in fines or jail time. Courts will sometimes rule that where spoliation has occurred, a jury can draw inferences or judgments that favor the opposing party. The theory is that when a party destroys or alters evidence, it may be reasonable to infer that the party had “consciousness of guilt” or other motivation to hide or misrepresent the evidence. Therefore, the jury/judge may conclude that the evidence would have been unfavorable to the party that acted improperly.

Source: News & Analysis