BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU GO TO AN INTERVIEW AT THE OFFICE OF PROFESSIONAL DISCIPLINE, OPD, –OTHER PEOPLE MAY HAVE GIVEN STATEMENTS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AT YOUR CLIENT’S EXPENSE
We recently represented a nurse at a Department of Education, OPD interview in a situation where it was claimed that regulations had not been followed when a patient was in the process of dying. Several nurses were involved in the event and we asked our client to talk to those nurses to find out if they had given statements to OPD and if so, what was said about the matter. When our client advised us that the other nurses either would not return calls or would simply avoid talking about the issue, we knew that there might very well be stories told that pointed the blame at our client. Accordingly, we advised our client of our thoughts and we prepared for (the) worst because there is no discovery before the Interview and therefore we did not have statements made by other people to review before our client was questioned.
At the Interview, our client answered all of the questions in accordance with her memory and the documented facts that we knew. However, the OPD investigator then revealed the statements he had from the other participants and two sets of stories did cast blame on our client. From our point of view, it seemed obvious that these statements were given simply to protect the other people and make a scapegoat out of our client. However, this was a very dangerous situation because no matter how we pointed out that these stories could not possibly be true, there was the very real fear that the investigator might well charge everyone with misconduct and let the chips fall where they may. This would put our client’s license in jeopardy as no one can predict what might happen at an Administrative Hearing. Our plan is always to end the investigation at the Interview so that no charges are brought and the file is closed. In this case, the version of the facts given by the other people was obviously very troublesome.
Then, the investigator read to us the statement given by a third person who was present at the time. This version corresponded perfectly with our client’s recollection of the facts and, accordingly, was extremely helpful to us. But, that did not mean we were out of the woods yet as the score, so to speak, was now two against two and there was no guarantee at all that charges would not be brought against everyone, including our client.
This very scary situation ended well when after a month we received a call from the investigator stating that the file was being closed as to our client. What, if anything, is going on regarding the other people is not known to us. But we do know that the matter is over for us, and that was the object of the entire process.
So, the lesson to be learned here is to realize that other people might well have given statements about an issue and you cannot discover in advance what they had to say. What you can bet on is that they will give a statement that helps them and if that harms you, well that is just too bad. So, prepare for this situation with your lawyer beforehand so you both understand that you might have to defend the case from an unknown accusation that could very well put you at risk. Remember, people will protect themselves at all costs and therefore you have to do your best to get yourself ready for the unexpected. Your license is at risk and you cannot prepare too carefully for this Interview.