Category Archives: Michigan

Legal reform advocates point to medical malpractice figures in New York, Pennsylvania

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) – Experts who have watched medical malpractice lawsuits skyrocket in states like New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey say lawmakers have made it too easy and attractive to sue and reform must happen. “New Yorkers once again pay more for medical liability than anywhere in America,” Tom Stebbins, executive director of Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York told Legal Newsline. “Sadly, Albany recently made matters worse by approving legislation that expands liability and makes it easier to file lawsuits.” The “2018 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis” released March 1 by Diederich Health Care, a medical liability insurance and consulting company based in Carbondale, Illinois, includes figures comparing medical malpractice rates among states. Among Northeast states, New York topped the list for the most malpractice cases with a total approximate $617,973,000 in payouts with Pennsylvania second at $342,093,300, and New Jersey third with $267,913,250. The lowest in the Northeast were the District of Columbia with $11,498,500, Delaware with $8,253,250 and Vermont at the bottom with $1,536,500. Among Midwestern states, Illinois was far in the lead with $300,790,050 in payouts with Michigan second at $77,072,200. The lowest Midwestern states were Wisconsin at $13,527,100, North Dakota with $3,505,000 and…

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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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Top cases show physicians had a forceful ally in the courts

One thing physicians from Florida to Hawaii had in common in 2017 was that the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies had their backs. The Litigation Center was involved in legal battles that helped prevent an insurance mega-merger, protected physicians’ right to free speech, and fought back on multiple fronts against attempts to sidestep or peel back established state liability reforms. But it was a case involving the staff at a hospital in rural California that may have attracted the most attention. Case signaled threat to end medical staff independence in California. In Tulare Regional Medical Center Medical Staff v. Tulare Local Healthcare District et al, the Litigation Center provided significant legal and financial support after the hospital’s board of directors voted to terminate the medical staff organization, remove elected medical staff officers, install a slate of appointed officers and approve new medical staff bylaws and rules without staff input. “This case serves as an existential threat to independent hospital medical staffs,” said Long Do, California Medical Association (CMA) legal counsel and director of litigation. Just before closing arguments were scheduled in October, Tulare filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. As part the process, the hospital…

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Tort reforms facing legal challenges in three states

In contrast with the federal government—where a House-passed medical liability reform bill languishes in the Senate—many states have found success enacting tort reforms that better serve patients and physicians. But court cases are challenging reforms in place in at least three states. In Maryland and Michigan, plaintiffs’ attorneys are using what is described as “artful pleading” to skirt pre-trial measures that assess the merits of a complaint and its worthiness for going to court. And in Kentucky, a suit has challenged the constitutionality of its new law authorizing medical review boards to assess the merits of a complaint. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association has filed amicus briefs in the Maryland and Michigan cases in which patients sued for injuries incurred after falling. By claiming ordinary negligence instead of medical malpractice, the plaintiffs bypassed review processes. The cases have gone through the trial and appellate courts and are now before the high court in both states. Dispute-resolution office bypassed in Maryland In Davis v. Frostberg Facility Operations, patient Sheila Davis was admitted to a nursing facility following back surgery. At one point, her mattress came loose and she fell on the floor. A nurse placed her on a mechanical lift to help her…

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The ‘Michigan Model’ for Malpractice Reform

Doctors have many tests and procedures to choose from when treating you. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? It is. Overuse and waste in medical care—which include ordering more tests and treatment than scientific evidence supports—make up as much as 30% of health-care spending according to a 2013 Institute of Medicine report. That’s approximately $750 billion a year, which we all pay for in premiums and taxes to support Medicare and other insurance programs. A massive new effort to eliminate wasteful spending has begun. This year the Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to pay doctors and hospitals more for quality, not quantity. Private insurers are likely to follow suit. We recently published findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine from a national survey of hospitalists—physicians who primarily treat patients in the hospital setting—that sheds some light on how medical tests and treatments are overused, and how often. We asked hospital doctors to imagine two common patient scenarios—a cardiac evaluation before surgery and a patient who suddenly loses consciousness—and asked what they thought most of their colleagues in their hospital would do. Evidence-based guidelines exist for both scenarios. More often than not,…

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Offer ER Doctors Needed Relief

Legislation would provide emergency physicians with helpful, and fair, tort reform Emergency room doctors shouldn’t have to fear lawsuits when simply doing their jobs. A bill in the Michigan House would bring some reasonable control to medical malpractice lawsuits brought against physicians in emergency situations. The liability limits in the legislation would improve patient care and help retain and even attract doctors to Michigan. Currently, the state is losing physicians, according to experts. Antonio Bonfiglio, M.D., with offices in Warren and Fraser, says the bill relieves some of the liability physicians may face in medical emergencies. “The bill doesn’t apply to elective surgeries or gross negligence,” explains the past president of the Michigan College of Emergency Physicians. “This isn’t a get out of jail free card (absolving doctors of all liability). This applies when patients are in emergency situations and when additional physician care is needed.” The threat of a lawsuit often hangs over physicians. But liability concerns in emergency situations have some doctors, particularly specialists, hesitant to even be on call. The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, passed in 1986, requires hospitals treat every person brought into their emergency rooms. But sometimes, as Diane Bollman, executive director…

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House Passes Health Care Apology Bill

Governor is expected to sign bill that keeps statements of concern out of court. There may be a good reason patients sometimes feel they get the cold shoulder from their doctors after being injured in a medical setting. The physicians may be afraid that even the slightest expression of concern or sympathy for the patient’s pain might be used against them in court. That fear could be alleviated in a bill Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to sign Wednesday after it passed the state House of Representatives on Tuesday. The “benevolent gesture” legislation would allow doctors to offer words of apology, condolence, explanation, compassion or commiseration to patients without fear of their words coming back to haunt them in court. The House passed the bill 202-0. The Senate approved the measure unanimously in June. “Medicine is not an exact science, and outcomes may be unpredictable. Benevolent gestures are always appropriate and physicians should not have to fear giving them,” said Dr. C. Richard Schott, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. With passage of the bill, “doctors will feel more comfortable doing so, knowing that an apology is inadmissible unless their expression admits fault.” The bill, which is part of Corbett’s…

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Without Reforms, Michigan Faces Physician Shortages

It's not in Gov. Rick Snyder's health care plan, but medical malpractice tort reforms could help Michigan deal with a nationwide doctor shortage. Other states — Texas most recently — have overtaken reforms Michigan adopted in the 1980s and 1990s. Loopholes and ambiguous legal provisions are eroding controls that once made this state a national leader in avoiding unwarranted and overblown liability awards, according to the Michigan State Medical Society. That could make it harder to recruit enough doctors to meet the growing needs of an aging population, not to mention the expected surge in newly insured families under the 2009 federal affordable health care act. Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, a cardiologist, argues that without new reforms Michigan's doctor dearth is likely to grow. Even if we take this step, trends aren't in our favor. One in every four Michigan doctors is older than 60 and approaching retirement, says the Medical Society, which represents about 16,000 Michigan doctors. Studies suggest the state will have a shortage of more than 4,500 physicians in fields such as pediatrics and internal medicine by 2020. Almost two-thirds of the state's doctors told the Medical Society in 2010 that their practices were full and they…

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