Ramona N. Hunter Of Counsel

     

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Ramona Hunter is an accomplished trial lawyer and civil defense litigator with a 20-year practice emphasizing personal injury, catastrophic injury and death, medical malpractice, mental health professional liability, product liability, transportation and complex litigation. She also has experience representing health care providers and device and product manufacturers. Ramona is a tenacious advocate for her clients and understands the significance of a client's interests in a broad spectrum of legal arenas. 

In all matters, Ramona pursues a sharp, tactical approach to litigation. At the outset, she determines likely exposure, identifies resolution options and expeditiously pursues outcomes that adhere to prescribed guidelines. When needed, she brings her clients a variety of creative approaches to litigation as a product of her wealth of experience. A master of oral argument, Ramona weaves an effective defense with a phased approach to liability and damages. She is an effective manager of the entire litigation process, and excels at providing clients quick and cost-effective solutions to complex and potentially protracted liability cases. 

Prior to joining Wilson Elser, Ramona worked at a regional firm providing clients with high-quality, cost-effective legal representation in every aspect of civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution. Earlier, she worked at a full-service firm with nationally recognized practices in litigation, business law and government relations, with experience operating in all sectors of the economy.

Areas of Focus

Product Liability/Warranties
Ramona has successfully defended a wide range of product makers in cases ranging from the flammability of children's clothing to automated dairy equipment. In addition, Ramona defends corporations and individuals in connection with claims for personal injury and wrongful death resulting from product defects, premises hazards and general negligence.

Medical Malpractice/Psychological Malpractice
Ramona regularly represents providers and hospitals in connection with professional misconduct claims, in court and at the administrative level. She defends hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and mental health providers in connection with claims of medical negligence. Ramona works vigorously inside the courthouse in pursuit of favorable outcomes. Best known for high-exposure cases, she handles more modest matters with the same levels of rigor and discipline.

Transportation
Ramona has extensive experience defending companies and drivers in connection with motor vehicle and trucking collision cases of all sizes, emphasizing cases involving catastrophic injury and death. Her goal is to accelerate turnaround through procedural dismissals, substantive dismissals, successful tenders and negotiated settlements, making use of proactive post-claim and post-suit risk assessment and mitigation techniques that can help close files quickly and efficiently.

Representative Matters

Medical Malpractice
Client: Regional Medical Center & Two Hospitalists 
Jurisdiction: Thurston County Superior Court
Disposition: Summary Judgment Dismissal

Two hospitalists, emergency room physician, neurosurgeon and physician’s assistant were alleged to have negligently failed to diagnose and treat shoulder fractures and other injuries in a patient who sustained a back fracture after falling from a second story balcony while under the influence of Ambien. Hospital course was complicated by a delay in treatment and multiple E.D. admissions, including an admission for Ambien induces psychosis. Patient, a retired dentist, was competent, but not a reliable historian of medical information and initially lied to ED staff regarding mechanism of his injuries. Timing of injuries, which were treated out-of-state after significant delay, were disputed due to history of falls and Ambien use. Summary judgment was granted, because the record lacked evidence of any pain complaints or other clinical indications that would have prompted hospitalists to evaluate and treat for shoulder-related injuries. Case continued as to other defendants and confidential settlement was entered after private arbitration. 

Client: Radiologist (First Read)
Jurisdiction: Snohomish County Superior Court
Disposition: Litigation Not Filed

Hospital and multiple physicians sued after patient became a paraplegic after sustaining trauma, allegedly due to mishandling, during an MRI procedure. MRI was performed on patient’s fifth visit to the emergency department complaining of suspected back fracture, which diagnosis was repeatedly missed. Client performed initial read of abdominal images obtained on first ED visit and read correctly as indicating no internal bleeding or other abdominal injury. Back fracture was not observed on imaging, but present in retrospect. Case settled for $20 million with hospital and other named defendants. Client not sued due to lack of clinical information, nature of films interpreted, and because he gave no reassurance or opinion regarding back fracture. 

Client: Radiologist
Jurisdiction: King County Superior Court
Disposition: Reasonable Settlement

Radiologist reading remotely missed an unusual dislocation frequently referred to as “nurse maid’s elbow” in a teenager. Teenager released from emergency department without treatment with instructions to follow-up, if her symptoms did not improve. Teenager had no health insurance and went on vacation, eventually presenting for treatment again after a delay in several weeks. When diagnosis was made, after delay, elbow required surgical repair and subsequent surgery to remove hardware. After limited discovery, and expert review confirming missed diagnosis, case was settled for a reasonable amount in light of medical specials and permanent loss of range of motion in the extremity. 

Client: ARNP employed by V.A. Medical Contractor
Jurisdiction: U.S. District Court, Western Washington
Disposition: Nuisance Settlement

United States of America, ARNP and other medical providers were alleged to have failed to timely diagnose lung cancer. Client was a primary care provider who treated patient intermittently for a variety of medical conditions, including chronic rhinitis. Due to nature of V.A. system, patient often treated through emergency departments, with review and treatment by a dozen different providers in different V.A. health systems for years. Whether patient presented any signs of lung cancer prior to diagnosis was disputed. After significant expert and other discovery, United States and its contractor settled for a nuisance amount with summary judgment motions still pending before the district court. Total settlement was $50,000 on a claim initially valued in the millions. 

Client: Regional Medical Center
Jurisdiction: Thurston County Superior Court
Disposition: Early Settlement

Fetus died during delivery. Nurse assigned to patient failed to properly interpret fetal monitoring strip and did not recognize category II and III tracings. Doctor not timely notified and no interventions occurred before fetal demise. Case resolved at earliest stages of litigation on very favorable terms for hospital, thereby avoiding significant defense and trial costs. Case continued as to defendant doctors. 

Client: ARNP (Psychiatric medication prescriber)
Jurisdiction:    Snohomish County Superior Court
Disposition: Settlement

ARNP provider failed to obtain needed labs for patient taking lithium. Other medical providers frustrated efforts to obtain need lab results were added to the case after third-party defenses were raised in answer and early discovery. Liability was clear, but strong arguments regarding apportionment prompted a request for early settlement for primary policy limits. Healthcare institution had extensive insurance and regarded the settlement as an extremely favorable result, given that the patient’s kidneys had failed and she would not be a likely transplant recipient. 

Psychiatric Malpractice
Client: Psychologist
Jurisdiction: Clark County Superior Court
Disposition: Multiple Summary Judgment Dismissals/Affirmed by Multiple Appeals Courts

Client served as a parenting evaluator and advised the court of his opinions regarding child custody and parental decision making. After hearing his testimony during trial, parents entered into a stipulated parenting plan and settled their divorce case. Plaintiff subsequently violated the parenting plan and was held in contempt and the parenting plan was revised by the trial court. Years later, one of the children committed suicide. Plaintiff subsequently sued the parenting evaluator for negligence in state court. After the lawsuit was dismissed at the CR 12 stage based upon qualified immunity, the plaintiff appealed. While state court appeal was pending, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a federal district court action against client, the guardian ad litem, and Clark County alleging the same claims and a claim under §1983. District Court dismissed the federal action on a CR 12 motion and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. State Court dismissal also affirmed and petition for review to Washington State Supreme Court denied. 

Client: Psychological Intern
Jurisdiction: U.S. District Court, Western Washington
Disposition: Voluntary Dismissal

Prisoner filed suit pro se against client and Washington State Department of Corrections seeking gender reassignment surgery under a medical necessity theory. ACLU appeared on behalf of the plaintiff and voluntary dismissal obtained on the merits. Lawsuit continued as to the State. 

Client: Psychological Practice
Jurisdiction: Pierce County Superior Court
Disposition: Voluntary Dismissal

Independent practitioner with more than 20 years of practice experience and no history of Department of Health complaints or discipline was alleged to have committed boundary violations while treating a female patient. Practice was sued for respondent superior liability, negligent hiring and supervision, but discovery revealed no complaints or indications of provider misconduct or history of prior bad acts. Provider misconduct was proved through discovery as to the independent psychologist and the case was settled by the practitioner’s insurer, without contribution from the practice. 

Client: Psychologist
Jurisdiction: Clark County Superior Court
Disposition: Nuisance Settlement

Former patient’s wife hired an attorney and commenced a malpractice action on behalf of her husband and herself for alleged boundary violations. Clinician had admitted to a sexual relationship with the husband/former client and had already surrendered her license to practice. Realities of intentional acts exclusion and lack of personal assets were explained to opposing counsel and insurer agreed to pay a nuisance amount, in lieu of defense costs, to obtain a dismissal. Case resolved at earliest stage possible, with minimal costs, including settlement amount, incurred. 

Client: Psychologist
Jurisdiction: King County Superior Court
Disposition: Summary Judgment Dismissal, Affirmed by Court of Appeals

Patient performed psychological testing as part of a parenting evaluation completed by another practitioner and later co-defendant. Plaintiff (the mother) filed suit after child was removed from her custody alleging negligence and gross negligence. Case was complicated by disposition of two Department of Health Complaints, which found negligence on the part of the client prior to representation. Summary judgment was granted based upon quasi-judicial-immunity, despite arguments regarding gross negligence. Washington State Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. 

Client: Non-Profit Services Provider
Jurisdiction: Spokane County Superior Court
Disposition: Voluntary Dismissal with Prejudice

Schizophrenic patient showing no signs of suicidal ideation and with the ability to come and go from residential facility committed suicide by hanging on a downtown construction site. Mother sued residential facility and psychiatric services providers for negligence. Defense initially mishandled and reassigned by senior claims manager. Upon reassignment, facility answered and raised gross negligence defense to standard of care and relevant damage defenses under Washington law. Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed in response to threatened motion practice and before requested depositions were completed. 

Department of Health
Client: L&D Nurses
Jurisdiction: Washington State Department of Health, Nursing Quality Assurance Commission
Disposition: No Cause

Baby died approximately two hours after delivery, while with parents. Parents failed to observe signs of respiratory distress. Autopsy revealed cause of death as meconium aspiration syndrome. Baby had been appropriately monitored post-delivery and showed no signs of respiratory distress while monitored for over 1.5 hours post-delivery. DOH agreed that nurses met the standard of care and complied with all applicable policies and procedures, mandating a no cause finding. 

Client: Radiologist
Jurisdiction: Washington State Department of Health, Medical Quality Assurance Commission
Disposition: No Cause

Tele-radiologist missed free air on imaging in a patient that had recently undergone gastric bypass surgery and was experiencing complications. Patient died and a medical malpractice action was filed against multiple doctors, including the client, in another jurisdiction. Case was settled, resulting in reports of settlement to all states in which the radiologist was licensed. Doctor was subsequently investigated by six separate health departments, with some inconsistent results. The cause of the patient’s death was attributable to clinical decision making by the general surgeon and hospital staff, not the radiologist’s missed read on imaging, which was understandable given the nature of the anatomy post-gastric bypass. MQAC agreed that the conduct of the radiologist was not the cause of patient harm and that he had taken appropriate measures in the intervening time to learn more about gastric bypass and resulting variant anatomy as to make the problem unlikely of repetition. Investigation was closed with a no cause finding. 

Client: Hospitalist
Jurisdiction: Washington State Department of Health, Medical Quality Assurance Commission
Disposition: No Cause

Hospitalist discharged an elderly patient who lived alone, but with support services for in-home care arranged and with interim care from a friend and neighbor arranged. Patient had previously threatened to leave the hospital against medical advice, but was convinced to reconsider and accept needed in-home care. In-home care was subsequently delayed, without notice, and patient was left unattended by neighbor. When found, she was determined to be in distress and hospitalized within less than 24 hours, triggering a mandatory report to DOH. The full case history was explained to DOH and the doctor was cleared of all charges of professional misconduct. 

Client: Associate Medical Director; Large Not-for-Profit Mental Health Provider
Jurisdiction: Washington State Department of Health, Nursing Quality Assurance Commission
Disposition: No Cause           

Former employee terminated for cause, including professional misconduct, filed complaints with DOH against former co-workers and the Associate Medical Director alleging that complaints regarding medication errors were not thoroughly investigated, thereby risking patient harm. DOH issued a no cause finding, after recognizing that the charge was made for an improper purpose (retaliation) and that there had been no actual medication errors, but an appropriate investigation into all such complaints by the charging party during her employment.