New Orleans attorney Lawrence J. Smith started to sweat recently when it looked like the $10,000 he had paid to fly doctors in to testify in a client's medical malpractice trial might be lost because a trial in another case threatened to bump him from the court calendar.

Smith reached into deep pockets for a solution: His client would pay the plaintiff in the other case $7,000 to settle her claim.

"I didn't think it was that novel when I did it," Smith said. "It made practical sense and it worked out very fairly."

Smith's client had had his foot amputated after dropping a piece of machinery on it and he sued his company doctor for $1 million, claiming timely X-rays would have saved the foot.

The case already had been bumped twice, Smith said, when he approached the parties involved in an $18,000 back-injury claim and proposed that they make room for his trial.

"I was skeptical at first," said Civil District Judge Louis DiRosa. "But we put it all on the record. It's aboveboard, as far as anyone knows, and everybody walked out happy."

Smith, by the way, said he settled his case in the second day of trial when the insurance carrier for the doctor agreed pay $350,000.