If you are interested in seeking a specific complaint that involves a nurse, a hospital and payments for meal breaks in St. Louis,  how would you proceed?  Many experienced researchers these days know that this information may be readily available via Google.

However,  it is not a secret that searches via the web often retrieve either too many. or too few results. When formulating a search query you may need to complete your bibliographic picture for the case in order to control retrieved results.  When seeking a specific case it is always useful to know the name of  either the plaintiff or defendant or both, the court the case was filed in, the judge, attorneys and date.

Newspapers often refer to court  cases. However sometimes  you may have read several newspaper articles  in order to assembly a complete bibliographic picture for the case.  In other words, one article may name the plaintiff’s attorney; another article may give the name of the court. The good news is that many news articles these days often offer links to relevant court documents!

We tried the following search query,  nurse hospital “meal breaks”  and “St. Louis” and our first result was a newspaper article:  Jim Doyle, Lawsuit against BJC HealthCare alleges Wage Violations,  St. Louis Post Dispatch (Oct. 22, 2013) This newspaper article mentions the name of the plaintiff, Annette Speraneo; the name of the defendant, Barnes-Jewish Hospitaland the name of the court, Circuit Court of St. Louis.

Once you have completed the bibliographic picture, you can easily search the web using the names of parties or attorneys and the type of the document requested.  Very often, we use ‘pdf’ as a search term because court documents often are posted as pdf’s.

Utilizing this information, we ran a search on Google: Speraneo BJC complaint pdf, and located a copy of the complaint.  The entire search was completed in a matter of minutes.

Mark Kloempken and Tove Klovning