Archives: June 2011

June 2011 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 6, Issue¬†6 June 2011 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Liability Reform — A Texas Triumph HEALTH Act Introduced in the Senate State Reform Roundup Going Social Liability Reform — A Texas Triumph A new study detailing the extent to which medical liability lawsuits decreased after Texas passed sweeping reforms to its liability system reveals to patients and physicians throughout the state why they should be happy to call the Lone Star State home. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found a nearly 80% decrease in surgical liability lawsuits at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio since reform was enacted in 2003. From 1992 to 2004, about 40 suits were filed for every 100,000 procedures, dropping to just eight per 100,000 surgeries post-reform. Most striking is the amount of money the medical center was able to save, as legal costs associated with lawsuits decreased from $595,000 a year to just $515 per year in the years following the passage of comprehensive medical liability reform. Without the threat of meritless lawsuits hanging over their heads, Texas physicians can focus on providing the best possible care to their…

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Ohio court ruling may expose doctors to unending lawsuits

The Ohio State Medical Assn. and others are asking the Supreme Court of Ohio to review a lower court’s ruling they say exposes physicians to an endless risk of negligence claims. An appellate court decision in Ruther v. Kaiser found that the state’s statute of repose was unconstitutional. The court allowed a family’s claim to move forward, despite the alleged negligence having happened 10 years before. “This evisceration of the statute of repose will affect the ability of every Ohio hospital, physician and medical provider to plan for the future, given the omnipresent specter of unknown old medical claims that could be filed at any time,” the OSMA said in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and the State Medical Societies. The statute of repose works in connection with the statute of limitations to enforce deadlines in which claims must be filed. In Ohio, the statute of limitations allows plaintiffs one year to file a claim after discovering alleged medical negligence. The statute of repose says if plaintiffs have not discovered an alleged injury or negligent act after four years, they cannot sue. The ruling stems from the case of Timothy Ruther, who…

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TN gov signs bill placing caps on lawsuit payouts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A measure to cap payouts for medical malpractice and other civil cases is good for business in Tennessee, said Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed the bill Thursday. The law places a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, and the cap will be raised to $1 million in cases involving serious spinal cord injuries, severe burns or the death of a parent of minor children. Punitive damages are capped at twice the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. “We wanted to make sure we did everything we could to protect victims’ rights, but also have a predictable playing field for businesses,” said the Republican governor. Valerie Nagoshiner, acting director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Tennessee, said the law should help. “Small businesses are especially vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits,” Nagoshiner said in a release. “It’s hard enough for them to defend themselves against even the weakest of claims, but one outrageous jury award or one frivolous lawsuit can be the difference between a small, family-owned business staying open or closing for good.” Critics say the law weakens company accountability and juries should decide damages. “Everyone should be held accountable…

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Surgical liability cases drop nearly 80% at Texas medical center

Texas trauma surgeon Basil Pruitt Jr., MD, was confident the state’s tort reform measures had reduced lawsuits at the medical center where he practices. But he and fellow physicians were shocked when they learned by how much. A study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found a nearly 80% decrease in surgical liability lawsuits at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio since tort reform was enacted in 2003. That year, the Texas Legislature passed a comprehensive package of tort reforms that included a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in most medical negligence cases. The lack of lawsuits led to a dramatic drop in legal costs at the center, the study showed. “It confirmed our hypothesis that [tort reform] was important, but the magnitude of the decrease was quite striking,” said Dr. Pruitt, one of the study’s co-authors. Researchers studied pre-tort reform surgery data at the medical center from 1992 to 2004 and analyzed surgeries performed post-reform. Of the 98,513 surgeries studied, 28 lawsuits were filed against residents or surgery faculty, the study showed. Twenty-five of the suits were filed before tort reform, and three were filed after reforms….

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