Archives: February 2019

February 2019 Newsletter

PA Supreme Court avoids rush to judgement on liability rule changes The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced it would delay a proposal that could encourage medical lawsuit abuse across the state. At issue is a proposed rule change that would allow lawsuits to be filed outside of the county where the incident in question occurred. The announcement followed a request by the state Senate to study the issue further before any changes are made. The legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee will look at how the location where liability lawsuits are filed impacts access to care, costs, and compensation. Fifteen years ago, lawsuits could be brought forth in any county where the doctor or hospital did business. Philadelphia, which built up a reputation for its litigious environment, became the city of choice for personal injury attorneys “venue shopping” their lawsuit. The Senate’s report is due to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court by Jan. 1, putting a hold on any changes this year. To read more about the proposed changes in Pennsylvania’s liability laws, click here. Costs remain crippling even as liability lawsuits decline While the frequency of medical liability claims show a positive downward trend, the cost of defending a lawsuit and average…

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N.D. law limiting damages in malpractice cases ruled unconstitutional

SOURCE: The Bismark Tribune A judge has found a North Dakota law limiting damages in medical malpractice cases to be unconstitutional. In a case involving a woman who was disabled due to a surgery at CHI St. Alexius Health, South Central Judicial District Judge Cynthia Feland denied a motion from the hospital to reduce a jury’s verdict. A jury last April awarded Chenille Condon, 35, of Fort Yates, $3.5 million after finding cardiac and thoracic surgeon Dr. Allen Michael Booth negligently performed a surgery on Condon that caused a serious stroke in 2012. The jury decided Condon deserved $2 million for economic losses, such as medical expenses and lost earnings, and $1.5 million for noneconomic damages, including pain, suffering, physical impairment and emotional distress. The hospital sought to reduce the award for nonecomonic damages by $1 million under a state law that limits such damages to $500,000. Feland ruled the 1995 law is unconstitutional, violating equal protection guaranteed by the North Dakota constitution by arbitrarily reducing damages for people who suffer the most severe injuries. “It was a courageous decision by Judge Feland and the correct one,” Condon’s attorney, Tom Conlin, said Tuesday. “It’s a victory for the people of…

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NM faces hurdles recruiting doctors

SOURCE: Albuquerque Journal An “exciting opportunity” for a neurosurgeon awaits at the San Juan Regional Medical Center, according to an online hospital help wanted ad. Unfortunately, the vacancy has been open for at least 18 months despite the eye-popping base salary of up to $750,000 and perks that include student loan repayment. The good news is that the 194-bed hospital in New Mexico’s Four Corners area – which needs a total three neurosurgeons – has managed to hire two from out of state during its ongoing search. “We beat the bushes and found them,” said hospital CEO Jeff Bourgeois. “We tell them, `You’re needed. You’re needed here. Come here and you’ll be appreciated … ‘ ” New Mexico is suffering more than many other states from the national physician shortage, leading to long wait times for appointments and emergency room visits when waiting is unbearable. One national report ranked the state 48th in access to physicians in 2017. To make matters worse, the state’s physician work force is the oldest in the country and ranked near the top in the number of doctors surveyed who said they planned to retire in the next few years. Some health care leaders say…

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Medical malpractice claims down, payouts up: Study

SOURCE: Business Insurance The frequency of medical malpractice claims has dropped substantially, but average case management expenses and indemnity payments continue to rise, according to a report. The rate of medical professional liability claims declined 27% from 5.1 cases per 100 physicians to 3.7 cases from 2007 to 2016, according to a report issued on Tuesday by CRICO Strategies called Medical Malpractice in America: A 10-year Assessment with Insights that examines national trends in claims frequency, payment and root causes of preventable harm. The report analyzed events affecting 124,000 patients. “For the roughly one million physicians across the country, this trend signals a dramatic change in their risk of being named in an MPL case,” the report stated. “While no single factor can be aligned with an across-the-board reduction, changes in the tort environment, improved patient safety, and increasing financial risk for plaintiffs’ attorneys likely contributed.” The report highlighted positive trends in the obstetricians/gynecologists specialty, whose physicians historically face higher claim rates than the average of all doctors, with the risk of a claim or lawsuit against these physicians declining 44% to 5.1 cases per 100 physicians, according to the report by the Boston-based company, which is a division of…

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court relents for now on medical malpractice changes

SOURCE: The Morning Call The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily set aside its contentious proposal to ease 17-year-old restraints on medical malpractice lawsuits. In a letter, the high court informed Pennsylvania Senate leaders it accepted their request to postpone action pending review by a legislative research office. At issue is whether to roll back a 2002 court rule requiring malpractice lawsuits to be filed in the county where the alleged medical error occurred, not where a jury might view the claim most favorably. The Democrat-majority court’s proposal drew scorn from Republican lawmakers, and from doctors and their lobbyists. The opponents said “venue shopping” would unleash frivolous lawsuits and drive up doctors’ malpractice insurance costs, as sometimes occurred before the rule was instituted with other malpractice changes in 2002 and 2003. Democratic lawmakers sided with trial lawyers, who were asking the court to make the change. They argued the venue restriction makes it impossible to find impartial juries in some rural counties and pointed out that no other industry faces similar curbs on civil lawsuits claiming injury or negligence. The Senate last week passed a resolution asking the court to delay a decision on the policy change until year’s end…

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