Category Archives: National

February 2018 Newsletter

Show me liability reform A recent push for liability reform in Missouri could show patients how a reduction in medical lawsuit abuse can improve access to care across the states. Building on Governor Greitens’ emphasis on the need for changes to the state’s liability system, a new bill would bring an efficient resolution to those with legitimate claims. The latest bill, introduced by State Senator Dan Hegeman, allows physicians to address claims promptly by redefining the statute of limitations to three years. “Missouri has not amended the five-year statute since 1939,” Hegeman told the Senate government reform committee. “While five years may have made sense in an age when transportation and communication were more challenging, there is no reason today for an injured person to need so much time to file the action.” The shorter statute of limitations gives physicians peace of mind that any claims of negligence are addressed quickly, and deserving patients benefit from a system that better separates meritless lawsuits from rightful claims for damages. To read more about Missouri’s efforts to further reform their liability system for patients and physicians, click here. Sweeping changes to liability system would bring benefits to Kentucky Initiating legislation that would…

Read More

January 2018 Newsletter

Medical organizations paving the way for Senate consideration of liability reform Following House passage of comprehensive medical liability reform in 2017, medical organizations representing patients and physicians, including the HCLA, have taken a leading role in aiming their efforts at Senate consideration of the legislation. With a goal of reducing medical lawsuit abuse and enacting federal reforms that eliminate inconsistent and ever-changing state liability laws, specialty physician organizations and health care coalitions have emphasized the need to move forward on reform. Citing a need to compensate those patients who are truly the victims of medical negligence, American Association of Family Practitioners president Michael Munger, MD emphasized that reform is needed because “too much money is diverted from patient care to liability insurance premiums and the legal fees that are part of a lawsuit.” The bill under consideration relies on a history of success among states with the climate to enact such positive reforms. “This legislation adopts many of the reforms which have been thoroughly tested in the states and which have proven successful in improving the medical liability climate in those states,” stated the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons, also an HCLA member,…

Read More

AMA Studies Show Continued Cost Burden of Medical Liability System

The American Medical Association (AMA) today released a new series of trend reports in its Policy Research Perspective series illustrating the price Americans pay for the nation’s broken medical liability system. “Information in this new research paints a bleak picture of physicians’ experiences with medical liability claims and the associated cost burdens on the health system,” said AMA President David O. Barbe, M.D., M.H.A. “The reports validate the fact that preserving quality and access in medicine, while reducing cost, requires fairness in the civil justice system. Every dollar spent on the broken medical liability system is a dollar that cannot be used to improve patient care.” The first report analyzes medical liability claims frequency among patient care physicians in the U.S. and finds that getting sued is virtually a matter of when, not if, for physicians. Highlights in the report include: Getting sued is not an uncommon event for physicians. More than a third of physicians (34 percent) have had a claim filed against them at some point in their careers. Because older physicians have been in practice for a longer time and thus have had more exposure, the probability of getting sued increases with age. Nearly half (49.2 percent) of physicians…

Read More

Push Continues for Medical Liability Reform — Slowly

In late June, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would impose a number of restrictions on malpractice litigation, including a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damage awards. Click here to read our original report on the vote. In this follow-up, we check on what has happened to the bill since then. Proponents of medical malpractice liability reform achieved a victory this past summer with the House’s passage of a bill capping non-economic damage awards at $250,000, but efforts to move the bill along in the Senate have not met with any luck to date. The bill, known as the Protecting Access to Care Act, passed the House in late June by a vote of 218-210; it would apply only to cases involving services covered wholly or partly by federal insurance programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The bill would implement the damage cap in states that do not already have a cap. The bill would also: Set a statute of limitations for filing malpractice suits at 3 years after the date of the injury, or 1 year after the plaintiff discovers — or should have discovered — the injury Repeal the “collateral source” rule, which says…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

November 2017 Newsletter

Physician opinions: medical liability lawsuits and impact on care Holding strong opinions about the current liability climate, its impact on patient care, and the way to discourage medical lawsuit abuse, physicians weighed in on the way toward comprehensive medical liability reform. Surveying over 4100 physicians across more than 25 specialties currently practicing in the US, Medscape captured the prevailing thoughts of physicians who bear the brunt of a broken system that costs too much, takes too long, and undermines their relationship with their patients. With 55 percent of those taking part in the survey responding that they had been named in a medical liability lawsuit, specialists across surgery and OB/GYN practices were found to be most likely to be sued. Eighty-five percent of respondents in each specialty noted that at one point or another in their careers, they were forced to spend countless hours on defense preparation and in court for lawsuits, that, 40 percent of the time, took between one to two years to resolve. As a result, 45 percent of physicians report that the threat of medical liability lawsuits are on their mind all or most of the time – a driving factor in the practice of defensive…

Read More

Court Stays Order Striking Down Medical Review Panel Law

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Court of Appeals has stayed a lower court’s ruling striking down a state law requiring a panel of doctors to review medical malpractice cases before going to trial. Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s Oct. 30 order prevented state officials from enforcing the law. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration asked the appeals court for an emergency stay until the case can be heard on appeal. The court noted 89 cases are pending before the medical review panels, and if it did not order a stay, the statute of limitations would expire on at least one of those cases. Bevin spokesman Woody Maglinger said the Bevin administration is encouraged by the ruling and is ready to resume enforcing the law.

Read More

Florida Supreme Court tosses out part of state medical malpractice law

TALLAHASSEE– Saying that changes approved by lawmakers “have gashed Florida’s constitutional right to privacy,” a sharply divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected parts of a controversial 2013 medical-malpractice law. Justices, in a 4-3 decision, said the 2013 law — which involved an issue known as “ex parte” communications between doctors and defense attorneys — could lead to the disclosure of patients’ private health information that is unrelated to malpractice cases. The law dealt with the process in which defense attorneys gather information in medical-malpractice disputes and their conversations with doctors who treat plaintiffs for reasons unrelated to the alleged malpractice. The 2013 law would allow such conversations, at least in certain circumstances, to occur outside the presence of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Opponents of the law argued that such “ex parte” communications could lead to violations of patient privacy. “Even the possibility that a person’s extremely sensitive private medical information will be exposed is the type of governmental intrusion that the Florida Constitution protects against because it is impossible to know if an inadvertent disclosure occurred when the meetings are not only ex parte and without a judge, but also secret without a record,” Justice R. Fred Lewis wrote in…

Read More