Category Archives: Connecticut

November 2019 Newsletter

Iowa’s liability climate is changing – for worse The Iowa Medical Society (IMS) highlighted how the state’s medical liability climate is shifting and threatening access to care in the Fall edition of Iowa Medicine. In 2017, a series of reforms including certificate of merit and expert witness requirements were implemented to drive down the number of meritless lawsuits filed in the state. Unfortunately, at the time, reasonable limits on non-economic damages were included only as a “soft cap,” allowing the limit to be waived by a jury in certain instances. MaryGrace Elson, MD, MME, FACOG, President of IMS and an OB/GYN from Iowa City, highlights the outcome of the soft cap in the edition’s feature story, “Our Medical Liability System in Crisis.” “In the past three years, Iowa’s medical liability climate has shifted dramatically,” she notes. “… Iowa’s trial bar has begun cherry-picking cases where there is no dispute that a medical error occurred. Employing questionable tactics that play to juries’ emotions and drive up award expectations, we have seen a string of high-dollar verdicts against physicians and facilities.” Over the past two years, just five lawsuits have led to awards of $63 million in noneconomic damages, and impacted patient…

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Spike in medical-malpractice payouts worries CT doctors, hospitals

SOURCE: Hartford Business Journal Medical-malpractice insurance payouts on behalf of Connecticut hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers in 2018 hit their highest total since the state’s been tracking the data. In all, malpractice insurers, including self-insurance entities like “captives,” paid out $262.6 million to patients alleging errors, misdiagnoses and other medical missteps. That was a 33 percent, or $65.7 million, increase over 2017, and the total bested a prior record of $229.8 million in malpractice payouts set back in 2006, the year after the state began tracking and reporting the data. The average payment also hit a record level in 2018 — $935,000 — after staying below $700,000 for the prior five years, according to the Connecticut Insurance Department, whose data includes legal settlements and judgments. Some hospitals and doctors worry that the uptick could signal coming increases in their malpractice premiums. That would fit with a broader trend, as premiums have been rising across the country in recent years, after more than a decade of stability, according to the Medical Liability Monitor, an Illinois-based news service that tracks malpractice issues. Rising malpractice claims and liability insurance costs are significant because they increase healthcare costs for everyone, including individuals and…

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August 2019 Newsletter

Liability reforms must be more than skin deep An analysis by University of Virginia (UVA) researchers on the prevalence of unnecessary medical tests highlighted the effect on health care costs and patient anxiety, leading a retired neurologist to reflect on how reforms must go beyond the superficial. The initiative followed a report by UVA researchers Andrew Parsons, a hospitalist and an assistant professor of medicine, and Joe Wiencek, a pathologist and an assistant professor of pathology, which found that diagnostic care that offered little value to patients is estimated to cost our health care system $800 billion annually. By offering technical solutions, such as a screen alert when a doctor orders a certain test and a weekly email that analyzes the amount of tests a doctor orders as compared with their peers, they seek to drive down unnecessary costs. Retired Virginia neurologist Dr. Justiniano F. Campa urged policymakers and patients to consider the root cause – a physician’s fear of being faced with a lawsuit. “I have to point out that the main reason for those tests lies in doctors’ fear of being sued, an event that can stop and destroy a hard-earned reputation and career,” Campa writes. While he…

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Woman Who Never Saw Doctor Claims Mistreatment; More

SOURCE: Medspace In a decision that critics charge could lead to an uptick in certain types of medical malpractice lawsuits, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last month that doctors owe a duty of care to some third-party non-patients, according to a July 12 report in the Hartford Courant.[1] The decision turns on a case that pitted an anonymous woman against a Norwalk internist. In 2013, the woman and her boyfriend, whose name was also withheld in the suit, began a relationship. Before they became physically intimate, however, both agreed to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The woman turned out to be disease free. But the man, tested under the internist’s supervision, was found to be infected with the herpes simplex virus. Soon afterward, an employee of the medical practice, tasked by the doctor to communicate this result, mistakenly reported a negative rather than a positive outcome. After the couple’s relationship became sexual, the woman, in time, experienced herpes outbreaks. This led her partner to follow up with the internist, who apologized after learning of his employee’s error. The woman then sued the internist. At trial, the defense moved to have her negligence suit dismissed, arguing that it was actually…

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August 2018 Newsletter

The reality of defensive medicine With projections about the cost implications of defensive medicine in the hundreds of millions of dollars, a new study showed greater insight into how physicians treated patients when they were not subject to the threat of lawsuits. The reality of defensive medicine became apparent when researchers from Duke and MIT, on behalf of the National Bureau of Economic Research, focused on active-duty military who were treated by government health care systems that are protected from medical liability lawsuits. When compared to treatment received by active-duty military from civilian medical professionals who are subject to liability, the study found “suggestive evidence that liability immunity reduces inpatient spending by 5% with no measurable negative effect on patient outcomes.” The study did an in-depth analysis on quality indicators to be sure doctors weren’t providing substandard care, and found no instances where the quality of care in the military health care facilities appeared to be worse. “Our analysis demonstrates that the active duty receiving care on the base are treated notably less intensively, without any health outcome consequences. Considering the lack of liability recourse for his treatment group, this pattern of results is suggestive of a strong degree of…

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On the Rise: What Is Driving the Cost of Medical Malpractice Insurance?

When the latest medical malpractice premium notice arrives at a physician’s office, it is not often for a small amount. Even practices that have avoided expensive lawsuits or claims are not shielded from rising premiums. Often, it seems that rising medical malpractice premiums are like death and taxes: inevitable. Medical malpractice premiums differ from one state to another and among specialties, yet they are all driven by the same factor: the cost of risk. Insurance carriers evaluate the cost of risk by actuarially assessing the probability of errors, the cost associated with defending claims, the cost of potential settlements, and organizational operational costs. In addition to state mandates regarding medical malpractice coverage, many hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) require coverage, and their limits may differ from state requirements. Insurance carriers care about hard and soft markets. In hard markets, carriers lose money, so relatively few carriers offer coverage. In hard markets, insurance is difficult—if not impossible—to obtain until premiums rise to offset the risk involved. In soft markets, carriers make money, so there is usually an influx of new carriers willing to write new policies at lower premiums than those that currently exist. This has occurred twice in Connecticut…

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December 2017 Newsletter

Year-end report sheds light on “Judicial Hellholes” The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) end-of-year “Judicial Hellholes” report offers a public glimpse at the most unfriendly jurisdictions for those defending themselves against civil litigation, including medical liability lawsuits. At the top of the list this year was Florida, where once-strong medical liability reforms have been continuously rolled back at the expense of patients seeking affordable and accessible care. “This year, thanks to a state high court majority’s barely contained contempt for the policy-making authority of the legislative and executive branches of government, and a notoriously aggressive and sometimes lawless plaintiffs’ bar, Florida earns the ignominious #1 ranking among eight Judicial Hellholes…” said American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. Also high on the list was St. Louis, where “antiquated rules have made it a favorite of personal-injury lawyers shopping for big-money verdicts” resulting in $300 million in awards since 2015. However, recent changes in state government, including a governor in support of changes to the liability system, do hold promise for much-needed reform in the coming year. To read more about ATRA’s “Judicial Hellholes” executive summary and report on the where physicians and defendants fare the worst when it comes to…

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High Court’s Contempt for Lawmakers’ Authority, Lawsuit Rackets Place Florida atop Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ List

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2017 – The American Tort Reform Foundation issued its 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes® report today, naming courts in Florida, California, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana among the nation’s “most unfair” in their handling of civil litigation. “With both this annual report and a year-round website, our Judicial Hellholes program since 2002 has been documenting troubling developments in jurisdictions where civil court judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” began American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. “This year, thanks to a state high court majority’s barely contained contempt for the policy-making authority of the legislative and executive branches of government, and a notoriously aggressive and sometimes lawless plaintiffs’ bar, Florida earns the ignominious #1 ranking among eight Judicial Hellholes, even as authorities have begun to crack down on some of the lawsuit industry’s most obviously fraudulent rackets. “Ranked #2 is perennial hellhole California, where lawmakers, prosecutors and plaintiff-friendly judges inexorably expand civil liability at the expense of businesses, jobseekers and those desperately in need of affordable housing,” Joyce explained. “The good news is the U.S. Supreme Court in June reversed a…

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