Archives: April 2012

Lawsuits against doctors decline

Ohio’s tort-reform law is having a dramatic impact on medical malpractice cases in the state, with closed claims dropping 41 percent between 2005 and 2010, and average payments declining 38 percent over that period. The Ohio Department of Insurance annual report also shows more than 3 of 4 closed claims resulted in no payment. Depending on your point of view, that’s either good news or “justice reduced,” as Columbus lawyer Gerry Leeseberg puts it. The legal fight over curbing lawsuits and settlements in medical malpractice cases reached a tipping point in 2003 when the General Assembly passed and Gov. Bob Taft signed Senate Bill 281. The law capped non-economic damages, commonly known as “pain and suffering,” at $500,000 per occurrence. Other changes followed. The results are clear in the 2010 annual report: Closed claims dropped to 2,988, the lowest level since the state began keeping records in 2005, and total payments dropped to $175million, more than $100million lower than five years earlier. In addition, doctors’ medical malpractice rates have dropped more than 26 percent, according to Tim Maglione, of the Ohio State Medical Association. “It’s not only good news and a good trend, but it is proof that tort reform…

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Defense Costs of Medical Malpractice Claims

To the Editor: Despite research on the overall costs of the U.S. medical liability system,1 national data are limited on the costs associated with resolving medical malpractice claims2 — defense costs — and how they vary according to physician specialty. The frequency of malpractice claims and the size of awards vary considerably across specialties,3 yet the degree of variation in defense costs across specialties is unknown. Defense costs constitute an important expense for insurers, and they affect physicians and patients by raising the costs of malpractice premiums and medical care, respectively. We analyzed defense costs associated with 26,853 malpractice claims closed between 1995 and 2005 among 40,916 physicians covered by a nationwide professional liability insurer. We have used claims from this insurer elsewhere to study malpractice risk according to physician specialty.3Each claim contained information on whether or not a payment was made to a patient, the specialty of the physician involved, and the defense cost associated with the claim. Defense costs included factors that were directly associated with the cost of defending an individual claim, such as filing and expert-witness fees, but they did not include items that could be spread across multiple claims. The mean (±SD) defense cost associated with claims was…

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Making the case for federal tort reform

Paul Taylor, Chief Counsel to the Subcommittee on the Constitution for the House Judiciary Committee, lays out a comprehensive argument for federal tort reform in The Federalist Papers, the Commerce Clause, and Federal Tort Reform published in the Suffolk University Law Review. In the modern era, Congress has enacted many federal "tort reform" statutes that supersede contrary state laws. However, some question the appropriate constitutional role of Congress in enacting federal tort reform. The Federalist Papers, the authoritative exposition on the Constitution written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, describe the need for a new federal Constitution that gave Congress the power to regulate "Commerce … among the Several States." This Article explores in detail the extent to which the arguments presented in the Federalist Papers, many of them too often overlooked, support Congressional efforts to enact federal tort reform. Indeed, the authors of the Federalist Papers advocated for a Commerce Clause that Congress could use to remove state barriers to trade that weakened the national economy. The examples Madison and Hamilton gave illustrating the need for the Commerce Clause encompass by their logic many federal tort reforms regarding both state products and personal liability law, insofar as such reforms are required…

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April 2012 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 7, Issue 4 April 2012 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: Making the Case for Federal Liability Reform More Movement for Medical Liability Reform Legislation The Massachusetts Model Positive Prognosis for Ohio Patients Physicians Face Steep Costs in Liability Lawsuits Making the Case for Federal Liability Reform While many states have come a long way in advancing medical liability reform for the benefit of their patients – Texas and California come to mind – far too many states have taken no action at all, and a patchwork of state laws have led to either an outpouring or influx of physicians, depending on the friendliness of the state’s liability climate. In this month’s Suffolk Law Review, Paul Taylor, Chief Counsel of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, explores why federal tort and liability reform is not only legal – but necessary. Taylor writes, “Madison predicted that, in the future, citizens would see the rise of new forms of rules and regulations in the states that would increase the costs of things nationwide, and that Congress would need its Commerce Clause authority to counter those cost-increasing influences.” Additionally, “The relatively recent rise in virtually limitless tort liability,…

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March 2012 Newsletter

Protect Patients Now Volume 7, Issue 3 March 2012 Newsletter E-Newsletter Special points of interest: House Passes Medical Liability Reform Bottom Line: Ryan Budget Includes Medical Liability Reform Patients Prevail Over Personal Injury Lawyers in Texas Romney Voices Support for Reform House Passes Medical Liability Reform After the elections of 2010, it was highly anticipated that the House of Representatives would take up medical liability reform in the 112th Congress. And after several committee hearings in 2011 were dedicated to the issue, legislation (H.R. 5, the Protecting Access to Healthcare Act) reached the House floor last week and was passed by a bi-partisan vote of 223 to 181. This was the 12th time that medical liability reform legislation has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995. Estimates have pegged the savings from this particular medical liability reform legislation to federal healthcare spending at $34 billion over 10 years, and the Congressional Budget Office has determined that the medical liability reform provisions of H.R. 5 would reduce the deficit by $45.5 billion over the same time period. This legislation will continue to provide full and unlimited compensation for economic damages to deserving patients, while putting an end to medical…

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