Robins Kaplan LLP
Peter Schmit has had one job since leaving the University of North Dakota Law School about 34 years ago. He began practicing at what is now known as Robins Kaplan and has a practice primarily limited to medical malpractice cases. He still thinks it’s a better job than working on a dairy farm seven days a week as he did growing up.
Medical malpractice cases are usually very difficult, and the practice has significantly changed during Schmit’s career.
Perhaps the most significant change was Minn. Stat. sec. 145.682, the expert witness affidavit requirement. Before that law, an expert’s causation opinion would run about four sentences and now it consumes pages and pages, Schmit said.
Also, the practice has become much more sophisticated, Schmit continued. ”I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but it’s a lot more work,” he said. In addition to the expert affidavits, the defense is more aggressive and the plaintiffs are more cautious, he said.
And then there’s the cost to prepare and try a case. “Oh boy,” was Schmit’s first response to the question of costs. Costs have increased quite a bit, and a $15,000 expert fee for testimony is normal.
“We spend a lot more time on the front end of a case,” Schmit said. He thinks doctors know that. “We are in a pretty small world, they know we’re not going to get into a [bad] case,” Schmit said.
On the other hand, Schmit sees a softening in jurors’ attitudes toward plaintiffs. “I’m not running into jurors thinking all cases against health care providers are wrong,”
Schmit also serves as the Chair for the Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services Campaign for Legal Aid, raising awareness and financial support for free, high-quality legal services to low-income people in critical civil matters. Each year, staff and volunteers close approximately 10,000 cases, serving an additional 20,000 people through community education and outreach activities.