I am a partner at STARR, GERN, DAVISON & RUBIN, P.C., a firm that traces its origins to 1926. I focus on Medical Malpractice and Construction Accident litigation, but represent catastrophically injured clients in a wide spectrum of personal injury matters.
On November 1, 2012, Starr, Gern, Davison & Rubin was one of nine law firms in New Jersey recognized as a Tier 1 Best Law Firm by U.S.News and World Report in the field of Plaintiffs Medical Malpractice.
I am a client focused attorney. The people I represent are carbon copied on every correspondence and are continuously informed about what is going on in their litigation. I take and promptly return telephone calls and I am available to my clients after hours through my cell phone. My firm believes the practice of law is a service industry, and our clients are our best advertisers.
I will meticulously prepare you for every stage of the litigation process. My firm has the financial wherewithal to prosecute complex cases to conclusion. We consistently work with a network of medical and technical experts throughout the United States to assist us in representing our clients. Finally, we utilize state of the art technology in and out of the courtroom to advance your interests.
I am published in the area of medical malpractice, patient safety and complex litigation. I am on the Editorial Board of Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy. I sit on the Medical Malpractice Subcommittee of the New Jersey Bar Association. Finally, I am a lifetime member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and I have been nominated by my peers in the field of medical malpractice in the annual Super Lawyers survey since 2010.
About John Ratkowitz
Admitted: 1995, New Jersey
Professional Webpage: njmedicallawyer.com/about/
Honors and Awards:
- The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state in the nation who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. Membership is extended solely to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile., The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers, 2013
- U.S.News and World Report recognized Starr Gern as a Tier 1 Best Law Firm in the field of Plaintiffs Medical Malpractice., Tier 1 Best Law Firm - Plaintiffs Medical Malpactice, U.S. News and World Report, 2012
- The Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum was established in 1993 and is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members., Life Member, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, 2010
- Avvo rates John at 10 - Superb, which is among the highest qualified trial lawyers in New Jersey, Avvo Rating of 10 - Superb
- Essex County County Bar Association
- Medical Malpractice Subcommittee, New Jersey State Bar Association
- New Jersey State Bar Association
- Association of Trial Lawyers of America
- Seton Hall University School of Law Inns of Cour
Pro bono/Community Service:
- Member - The ABA Military Pro Bono Project.
The ABA Military Pro Bono Project accepts case referrals from military attorneys on behalf of junior-enlisted, active-duty military personnel and their families with civil legal problems, and it places these cases with pro bono attorneys where the legal assistance is needed. The Project is also the platform for Operation Stand-By, through which military attorneys may seek attorney-to-attorney advice to better assist their servicemember clients., 2011
- Board of Directors, Arts Unbound. 542/544 Freeman Street, Orange, NJ 07050. Arts Unbound is a non-profit organization dedicated to the artistic achievement of youth, adults and senior citizens with disabilities. They provide professional classes in the visual arts and exhibitions in their gallery and throughout the state of NJ., 2008
- Board of Editors, Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy. 1617 JFK Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19103. Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy is a monthly periodical which publishes scholarly articles and keeps lawyers and physicians current on judicial, legislative and medical developments that can impact the area of medical malpractice., 2008
Scholarly Lectures and Writings:
- In-Hospital Falls. Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy, Vol. 31, Number 2, (November 2013). I initially published this article with my associate, Robert Sanfilippo, on November 1, 2013. Many patients who are admitted to a hospital are a fall risk because of an injury, illness or because of medication they must take. Accepted standards of care require hospitals to assess each patient on admission and implement fall prevention measures to prevent injuries to patients. This article discusses published accepted standards of care in place to avoid falls in hospitals.
- Avoidable vs. Unavoidable Pressure Ulcers: A Summary of the Federal Regulations. Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy, Vol. 30, Number 12, (2013) I published this article on September 1, 2013. Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers and bed sores, develop in the elderly and infirm when range of motion is restricted and limited. Pressure sores can be devastating injuries, and are frequently the subject of litigation against nursing homes and hospitals. In most circumstances, a well developed plan of care can avoid these complications. This article discusses when pressure sores are deemed preventable under Federal Regulations.
- Discovery in Medical Malpractice Cases: A Critical Analysis of the Self-Critical Analysis Approach. 156 N.J.L.J. 236 (1999). I published this article in the New Jersey Law Journal with my partner, Amos Gern, on April 19, 1999. When an unusual incident involving a patient occurs at a health care facility, it may be the subject of peer review by a committee created within the hospital. This kind of review is likely if the incident caused the patient to file a medical malpractice complaint. Peer review analysis and the reports from morbidity and mortality committees contain a great deal of factual information relevant to a medical malpractice case. Notwithstanding, defendants have been largely successful in shielding these materials during discovery by arguing that these documents are protected by the so-called self-critical analysis privilege. This article analyzed the development of federal case law that dealt with the self-critical analysis privilege and argues that courts should not allow hospitals to shield relevant evidence from disclosure by incorrectly applying the doctrine.
- Medical Malpractice: Making the Most of Pretrial Discovery, 181 N.J.L.J. 524 (2005). I published this with my partner, Amos Gern in the New Jersey Law Journal, August 8, 2005. Essentially, the article discusses the importance of being vigilant in pretrial discovery when prosecuting medical malpractice cases.
- The Role of Informed Consent In Defensive Medicine. Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy, Vol. 28 No. 10. (July 2008). This article critiques the argument that medical malpractice causes doctors to practice defensive medicine. Medical providers and insurance companies often argue that health care costs are unnecessarily increased due to the practice of defensive medicine. Despite this, here are many reasons to question the scope of the problem of defensive medicine. First, initial steps to quantify it were based solely on surveys of physicians. Second, an examination of the health care landscape revealed that there were many forces that would motivate doctors to over-order diagnostic tests and procedures. Third, although some states have now enacted tort reform, data from studies suggest that limiting a medical malpractice victim's right of redress does not significantly impact physician behavior. Finally, most consequential medical decisions are being made by doctors and patients, and bringing patients into the process has resulted in more decisions that err on the side of caution.
- The Relevance of Never Events in Medical Malpractice Litigation. Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy, Vol. 27, No.126 (September 2010). I wrote this article with my associate, Robert Sanfilipo, Esq. Never events are medical mistakes that are considered so base that insurance companies and Medicare have taken the position that they will not reimburse health care providers for care related to these events because the cause of the harm was entirely avoidable. Amazingly, the government and insurance industry's public stance in these errors has not stopped doctors from defending these claims in court.
- To Err is Human, But This is Something Else. Medical Malpractice Law & Strategy, Vol. 28, No. 4 (January 2011). I published this article on January 1, 2011. It deals with the lack of progress in the patient safety movement. I wrote it on the ten year anniversary of To Err is Human, which was a study performed by the National Institute of Health which revealed that the United States had a medical malpractice problem of epidemic proportions. Unfortunately, literature indicates that despite the alarming conclusions of Too Err is Human, the health care industry still has a long way to go to implementing basic safety measures to protect patients.
- Medical Malpractice - Winning the Expert Shell Game. 185 N.J.L.J. 1057 (2006). I published this article in the New Jersey Law Journal with my partner, Amos Gern, on September 18, 2006. Defendants in medical malpractice cases often hire multiple overlapping experts and then strategically fail to call the ones who testify poorly in depositions. This is unfair because it increases the costs of a litigation and it removes some of the most important evidence in a litigation from the jury's consideration. I published this paper in the New Jersey Law Journal with my partner, Amos Gern, as a guideline for attorneys about how to deal with this situation.
- The Consequences of Truth: Compulsory Medical Error Reporting in New Jersey. Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy, Volume 26, Number 9 (June 2011) I published this article on June 1, 2011. It (a) examines physicians' ethical obligation to report medical errors to their patients, (b) discusses the literature which analyzes why they fail to do that, (c) explains how New Jersey made an ethical requirement into a statutory one with the passage of the Patient Safety Act, N.J.S.A. 26:2H-12.23, and (d) suggests how statutory mandatory error reporting in New Jersey may impact the culture of health care and medical malpractice litigation.
- Winning the Morality Play in the Battle of the Experts. I published this article in Medical Malpractice Law & Strategy, Vol. 27, No. 6., March 2010. This paper was also the subject of a lecture. The paper discusses (a) the ethical requirements for expert testimony and (b) how to use these requirements during depositions and trial to demonstrate that defense experts conduct bias analyses.
- Shoulder Dystocia and the Duty of Informed Consent. Medical Malpractice Law and Strategy, Vol. 29, Number 6, (March 2012). This article deals with the subject of a physician's duty of informed consent when caring for a mother whose baby may be subject to shoulder dystocia at the time of delivery.
- The Standard of Care in Commercial Construction Site Safety Management. 213 N.J.L.J. 953 (2013). I published this article in the New Jersey Law Journal on September 16, 2013. It discusses the published literature that requires general contractors and subcontractors to take a proactive approach to safety management on commercial construction sites to protect workers from injuries.
- "Proving Damages: Successful Strategies from Winning Cases." Lecture, New Jersey Association of Justice - Four Concurrent Seminars, Edison, New Jersey (2007).
- "Deposition Preparation and Winning Cases in Discovery." Speaker. New Jersey Association for Justice Annual Convention. (2009).
Verdicts and Settlements:
- Confidential Settlement on Behalf of Bloomfield, New Jersey Woman Who Suffered From Pressure Sore While a Recovering From Spinal Surgery. The plaintiff underwent multi-level spinal surgery in June 2011. She was admitted to a rehabilitation hospital and after six weeks she was diagnosed with a pressure ulcer on her sacrum and bilateral pressure ulcers on her heels. She was then discharged from that facility to a long term care nursing home. The plaintiffs contended that a lack of continuity of care resulted in an exacerbation of the pressure sore, so that it went from a Stage II pressure sore to a Stage IV pressure sore. , 2015
- $1,060,000 Settlement on Behalf of 72 Year Old Livingston, New Jersey, Resident Who Lost Vision as a Result of a Stroke Occurring During Surgery. On September 30, 2013, I settled all claims against my client's cardiologist, the last defendant in the case, during trial in Newark, New Jersey. The settlement occurred a week into the trial, just before the defendant was scheduled to testify. , 2013
- $1.2 Million Dollar Settlement on Behalf of Estate of Bergen County Man Who Died When Multiple Defendants Failed to Diagnose Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis. On March 22, 2013, I settled a case involving multiple defendants who failed to diagnose my client's husband with subacute bacterial endocarditis for $1.2 million dollars. The defendant physicians repeatedly failed to communicate the results of diagnostic tests to each other, and unfortunately the decedent died from his disease., 2013
- Settlement of $400,000 Plus Negation of $100,000 Workers Compensation Lien for Morris County Ironworker After Closing Arguments During Trial in Morris County, New Jersey. After a week long trial, my client, an ironworker who required spinal surgery after a fall, settled his case right before the jury began deliberations for $400,000. I would have liked to have gone to verdict, but the client was satisfied with the proposed settlement and the decision about whether a case should be settled is always the client's., 2013
- Confidential medical malpractice settlement on behalf of a 28-year-old Brick, New Jersey, resident who suffered neurological damage following orthopedic surgery to his knee.In this case, I obtained a settlement on behalf of a 28-year-old resident of Brick, New Jersey, who suffered damage to his peroneal nerve after he experienced swelling in a leg cast following knee surgery. Peroneal nerve injury caused by casting is a known and avoidable complication., 2011
- $20.5 million dollar medical malpractice verdict for patient blinded in one eye following negligent retinal surgery. (Co-counsel to Amos Gern). This was the first medical malpractice case I worked on. This was the first medical malpractice case I ever worked on. The defendant physician was a retinal surgeon who also provided expert testimony in medical malpractice cases and had published extensively on the subject of how to avoid medical malpractice verdicts. I second chaired the trial for Amos Gern, Esq., who is now my partner. When you second chair a trial, you work mostly behind the scenes helping prepare for each day in Court. At the time the verdict was returned, it ranked among the highest in state history.
- Confidential medical malpractice settlement on behalf of a New Providence, New Jersey resident who lost vision following heart surgery. (Co-counsel to Amos Gern). n this case, we represented a Veteran who lost vision following heart surgery. The plaintiff became anemic while in the hospital. He saw different doctors from the heart surgery practice because his operating surgeon went on vacation. Lab results were not timely communicated and the patient eventually lost vision because a transfusion was not performed despite severe anemia.
- $600,000 medical malpractice settlement following two days of trial on behalf of resident of New Egypt, New Jersey who suffered vision loss following negligent retinal surgery. (Co-counsel to Amos Gern). In this case, a resident of Jackson, New Jersey, resolved a claim against a retinal surgeon after two days of trial. The defendant failed to perform timely surgery on the plaintiff, and this delay resulted in compromised vision.
- Confidential medical malpractice settlement during trial on behalf of resident of Monroe Township, New Jersey whose doctor negligently failed to diagnose bacterial endocarditis. In this case, the plaintiff, a resident of Lakehurst, New Jersey, lost vision as a result of a stroke while undergoing spinal surgery on November 27, 2000. The defendant anesthesiologist utilized an anesthesia technique known as induced hypotension, and during the operative procedure the plaintiff's blood pressure was allowed to drop too low, causing an ischemic stroke to occur. The case settled following discovery just prior to being scheduled for trial.
- $1 million medical malpractice settlement on behalf of infant suffering traumatic birth injury as a result of inadequate response to ominous fetal monitoring strips. In this case, we were able to resolve a traumatic birth injury case on behalf of an infant who suffered from profound asphyxia. The plaintiff suffered from aspiration pneumonia and gastroesophageal reflux and failure to thrive and required the insertion of a gastronomy tube. She then went on to develop a spastic quadriplegia and developmental delay. This was a tragic case made worse by the doctors inadequate insurance coverage. The case resolved following the deposition of the defendant and birth delivery team.
- Confidential medical malpractice settlement on behalf of stroke victim who lost vision as a result of drop of blood pressure during spinal surgery. In this case, the plaintiff, a resident of Lakehurst, New Jersey, lost vision as a result of a stroke while undergoing spinal surgery on November 27, 2000. The defendant anesthesiologist utilized an anesthesia technique known as induced hypotension, and during the operative procedure the plaintiff's blood pressure was allowed to drop too low, causing an ischemic stroke to occur. The case settled following discovery just prior to being scheduled for trial.
- $675,000 settlement on behalf of ironworker suffering multiple spinal fractures. (Co-counsel to Amos Gern). Our client was an ironworker who fell from steel on a commercial construction site and fractured his spine. The case settled at mediation. The evidence showed that the general contractor failed to provide adequate fall protection for the ironworkers working for subcontractors on the jobsite. There was evidence that the plaintiff consumed a substantial amount of beer at lunch prior to his fall.
- $1.2 million medical malpractice verdict following negligent stenting procedure. (Co-counsel to Amos Gern). In this case, a Morris County, New Jersey, resident received a $1.2 million dollar verdict after he suffered loss of tissue in his left foot as a result of negligent arterial stenting and a MRSA infection.
- Confidential settlement on behalf of a Jersey City, New Jersey woman. The plaintiff underwent negligent cosmetic surgery. This was a negligent plastic surgery case that settled right after the defendant’s deposition. The client came to us because she was not pleased with the outcome of breast augmentation surgery. She advised that the surgeon assured her that breast implants would correct a sagging problem, but the surgery only made this worse. Invariably, these kinds of cases are difficult to prove, but we filed suit when the surgeon provided us with a second medical chart that was entirely fabricated (unbeknownst to the surgeon, the client obtained a copy of her real chart prior to contacting our office). After we exposed the fact that the doctor falsified his records, the case resolved.
- Confidential medical malpractice settlement on behalf of estate of pediatrician who died following negligent failure to diagnose breast cancer. This was a tragic case involving a pediatrician who died after her OBGYN failed to diagnose her with breast cancer, despite multiple complaints of a lump. The OBGYN kept telling our client that the lump that she had was dense breast tissue because she was a petite woman. When through self-exam the client found evidence of swollen lymph nodes, the OBGYN again suggested she was over-reacting. Five months later, when the lump had grown and she now felt pain in the area of her nipple, the defendant finally referred our client for an ultrasound. By then, she already had metastatic disease to her liver.
- Confidential medical malpractice settlement on behalf Cedar Grove, New Jersey, resident injured by negligent spinal surgery. n this case, a 70-year-old former Marine from Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, suffered complications following negligent spinal surgery. The evidence suggested that the surgeon misplaced the hardware he was attempting to insert, and then dropped a screw. The screw fell because it had no purchase when it was installed because the surgeon missed the bone. The client had to undergo a second surgery to find the dropped screw and revise the hardware, and he was left with permanent nerve damage.
- Confidential settlement at trial in case filed on behalf of 14 year-old resident of Livingston, New Jersey who received negligent orthopedic surgery of the left elbow. This was a medical malpractice case involving a 14-year-old boy from Livingston, New Jersey, who suffered an elbow injury while riding a razor scooter. The front wheel of his scooter struck a pothole and he fractured his elbow after landing on his hands while stopping his forward momentum. His injury was then complicated when a pediatric orthopedic surgeon took inadequate preoperative x-rays. This led to an incomplete understanding of the kind of fracture the boy suffered, which necessitated additional surgery and resulted in a compromised outcome.
- $3.9 million dollar settlement at trial on behalf of two ironworkers injured when they were thrown to railroad tracks after general contractor failed to follow its own safety procedures. While my primary focus is on medical malpractice cases, I also represent individuals injured during construction site accidents. This is a very specialized area of the law which requires an understanding of pertinent OSHA safety regulations, the various other professional standards applicable to construction site safety, and a working knowledge of how commercial construction sites are managed and operated. This is an area that I follow and also publish in. In this case, two ironworkers suffered injuries when the manlift they were operating was flipped to the train tracks below a passenger train platform that they were working on. The general contractor failed to perform a load-bearing analysis prior to authorizing the use of these vehicles.
- Confidential Settlement on Behal of 64-Year-Old Resident of Monroe Township who Suffered Stroke as a Result of a Failure to Diagnose Endocarditis. In this case, a 64-year-old resident of Monroe Township, New Jersey, suffered a mild stroke as a result of endocarditis. The plaintiff’s primary care doctor treated him for Lyme disease. Although the plaintiff's lab studies were available on September 5, 2002, the defendant did not review them until September 16, 2002. Despite the fact that the test results came back negative for Lyme disease, the defendant continued to treat the plaintiff for that condition throughout the remainder of September and into October 2002. The plaintiff had an excellent recovery. We settled the case at trial. After opening arguments, I called the defendant as my first witness. After about forty minutes of cross-examination, he settled the case.
Other Outstanding Achievements:
- On November 1, 2012, Starr, Gern, Davison & Rubin was one of nine law firms in New Jersey recognized as a Tier 1 Best Law Firm by U.S.News and World Report in the field of Plaintiffs Medical Malpractice. The U.S.News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings is based on an annual evaluation of client critiques, peer review from leading attorneys in the field. Firms are ranked in in part based on their expertise, responsiveness, integrity, and cost-effectiveness. A first tier ranking includes those firms that scored within a certain percentage of the highest-scoring firm(s)., 2013