Archives: January 2016

January 2016 Newsletter

Risky Business: Subjecting Texas Physicians to Unfriendly Liability Climates While Texas patients have benefited from lower costs and an increase in specialty physicians in the decade since comprehensive medical liability reform was enacted, current litigation in New Mexico could undermine the legislation and leave the states’ physicians vulnerable when treating out-of-state patients. A patient from New Mexico who received treatment in Texas is now seeking to exploit the differences in the two states’ liability laws by filing a lawsuit for damages not allowed under Texas law, putting the Texas attorney general and a New Mexico judge and Court of Appeals at odds over whether or not the litigation should be upheld. One group of stakeholders has made their position clear – doctors and hospitals in both states who understand that, if the lawsuit is allowed to continue, Texas doctors in border towns may stop accepting New Mexico patients for treatment. Also siding with reason on this issue is the editorial board of the Albuquerque Journal, acknowledging the risky business that would follow. “Why would any out-of-state doctors want to treat New Mexicans if they know they could face lawsuits in a state that has no connection to their practice or…

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State lawmakers are set to consider increasing Indiana’s cap on medical malpractice payments for the first time in 17 years

State lawmakers are set to take up a proposal that would increase Indiana’s cap on medical malpractice payments for the first time in 17 years. The bill scheduled for review by an Indiana Senate committee on Monday would boost the state’s current limits on what malpractice victims could receive by $400,000 to $1.65 million, then allow the cap to increase every four years based on the national inflation rate. Republican Sen. Brent Steele of Bedford said he’s sponsoring the proposal because he wants to protect the malpractice cap from court challenges. “There is a real concern that this whole act is going to be declared unconstitutional due to the fact that it no longer addresses the legitimate damages of a claimant in an equitable fashion,” Steele told the Indianapolis Business Journal (http://bit.ly/23k5I0j ). Steele said he’s trying to find a compromise between physicians and hospitals who are worried about skyrocketing costs and lawyers who represent patients injured or killed because of medical mistakes. The Indiana State Medical Association isn’t yet supporting the proposal. Association spokeswoman Marilyn Carter said the physicians group is worried the changes could hurt the public’s access to health care. “These proposed changes come at a time…

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Editorial: Subjecting out-of-state M.D.s to NM law risky

A medical malpractice lawsuit filed in Albuquerque by a Curry County woman who had gastric bypass surgery in 2004 at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock has sent a thorny question to the New Mexico Supreme Court. While it would seem reasonable that Kimberly Montaño should have the ability to pursue a medical malpractice claim, a decision in her favor could have a chilling effect on all New Mexicans’ ability to access health care outside the state – and not just the many eastern New Mexico residents who rely on Texas health care providers because of shortages in the area. Kimberly Montaño went to Texas Tech University because that’s where her insurer at the time, Lovelace Insurance Co., told her she had to go if she wanted her surgery covered. She claims to have had life-affecting complications and is suing her surgeon, Dr. Eldo Frezza, who was chief of bariatric surgery at the TTU Health Sciences Center. Montaño has filed her lawsuit in New Mexico seeking to recover losses and punitive damages not allowed under Texas law. Medical malpractice laws differ by state and in Texas, state law bars lawsuits against individual state employees, which Frezza was…

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TMA seeks constitutional amendment to preserve malpractice damage caps

Despite a series of tort-reform measures approved by lawmakers in recent years, Tennessee physicians say they need further protection — in the form of an amendment to the state constitution — against the threat of large awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. The Tennessee Medical Association is asking legislators this year to start the process of amending the constitution to add language stipulating that the General Assembly can set caps on noneconomic damages in litigation. It’s a process that would take three years, with both chambers needing to pass a resolution by simple majorities this year and two-thirds majorities next year before voters are asked to approve it in 2018. Although the exact language wasn’t available last week, the resolution would state that an individual’s right to trial by jury is not abridged if there are limits placed on noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages generally refer to pain and suffering and mental anguish, for which a 2011 law capped awards at $750,000 per occurrence, or at $1 million in cases with catastrophic injuries or losses. The change would not apply to economic damages, such as medical costs and lost wages. The proposed resolution comes in response to a recent preliminary ruling by…

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