Category Archives: National

March 2019 Newsletter

Supreme Court changes could improve Florida’s liability climate The liability climate may be changing for the better in Florida, where access to care advocates are optimistic that new state Supreme Court justices will rule in favor of reform. Recently dubbed as the nation’s second worst “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Association, prior sitting justices voted in 2014 and 2017 to overturn medical liability legislation passed by the state legislature. With three new justices recently appointed to the court, advocates across the state have reason to be hopeful. State Rep. Tom Leek hopes that comprehensive medical liability reforms, including reasonable limits on non-economic damages, will bring justice to deserving patients and help keep health care costs affordable for the state’s aging population. With medical liability reform, “you provide predictability,” Leek said. “You allow insurance carriers to have a better understanding of what their exposure is and with that they can set premiums that are reasonable.” Leek’s recently introduced legislation is supported by the state business community thanks to the positive impact it would have on health care affordability and reduced medical lawsuit abuse, but still faces a high hurdle of opposition. To read more about the renewed push for…

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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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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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January 2019 Newsletter

Pennsylvania liability rule change could lead to increase in lawsuit abuse A rule that helped stabilize the medical liability market in Pennsylvania faces the threat of repeal, bringing worry that medical lawsuit abuse could return. Implemented in 2002, reforms mandated that medical liability claims could only stand trial in the county where the alleged medical error occurred to avoid “venue shopping” lawsuits to courts that had a history of favoring large verdicts and personal injury attorneys. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court now proposes eliminating that rule, allowing victims to file lawsuits in any county where the defendant does business — even if the incident in question occurred elsewhere. A coalition that includes the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), and the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR) cites this rule as the primary reason the system has stabilized to its current point. “If history is any indication, this could have devastating effects on patient care,” said Danae Powers, MD, president of PAMED. “In the years before we restricted venue shopping, medical liability premiums rose so quickly that some physicians couldn’t obtain the insurance they needed to treat patients. Others chose to leave Pennsylvania or…

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New Malpractice Risks in Your EHR

SOURCE: Medscape New Malpractice Risks and Electronic Health Records Malpractice liability risks for physicians, practices, and healthcare organizations (HCOs) continually change, owing to a variety of healthcare and technology issues. From changes in treatment and care strategies to the ability of your electronic health record (EHR) to support new patient service tactics and care responsibilities, you need to be aware of these risks. You also need to manage your EHR use to address potential malpractice-related risks. On the plus side, as more patient care tools are built into EHRs and as more active patient care interventions become part of your patient treatment routine, EHRs may help you manage patients and your clinical activities. However, built-in EHR features that display warnings and advisories can produce a cacophony of visual and auditory noise that can be distracting. Physicians need to be able to control and manage them. EHR-generated advisories that are misleading or inappropriate could disrupt patient service, confuse physicians, and undermine confidence in the EHR. If a malpractice case arises, the plaintiff could see evidence that’s residing within your EHR, and use it against you. For example, EHR drug interaction warnings as well as notifications of incoming secure messages are tracked…

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December 2018 Newsletter

An opinion on collateral source reform in Florida A recent op-ed by a former Florida legislator highlighted the dysfunction in the state’s liability system, including how the lack of collateral source reform in medical liability cases has led to inflated and unnecessary costs. Don Brown, previously a representative in the Florida House, weighed in on Florida’s recent number two position on American Tort Reform Association’s “Judicial Hellholes” list – and on one of the driving factors of increased liability across the state. “These inflated costs are exacerbated by the fact that Florida prohibits juries from seeing the payments made to plaintiffs by outside parties such as insurance companies,” Brown wrote. The issue at hand is the collateral source rule, where a defendant is prohibited from introducing in court any evidence of payments received by the plaintiff, from sources other than the defendant, which might remedy some of the plaintiff’s economic losses. The result is double recovery of damages by plaintiffs since both the defendant and another party, such as an insurance company, pay for the same loss. “The first, and most obvious solution, is to allow juries to see any outside compensation received by the plaintiff for treatment,” Brown suggested….

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“Judicial Hellholes” 2018/2019 Executive Summary

SOURCE: Judicial Hellholes The 2018 – 2019 Judicial Hellholes report shines its brightest spotlight on nine jurisdictions, courts or legislatures that have earned reputations as Judicial Hellholes. Some are known for welcoming litigation tourism or as hotbeds for asbestos litigation, and in all of them state leadership seems eager to expand civil liability. A recent study released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform highlights both the overall cost and inefficiencies of the tort system. The report states that the cost and compensation paid in the U.S. tort system totaled $429 billion in 2016, accounting for 2.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. The 2018-2019 Judicial Hellholes jurisdictions largely contributed to these costs, and on a local level, they saw job loss, personal income loss, and state revenue loss due to the excessive tort costs in the states. The data clearly demonstrate the need for a more balanced civil justice system. #1 CALIFORNIA A perennial Judicial Hellhole, California has once again regained its position atop the Judicial Hellholes list due to the propensity of California judges and legislators to extend liability at almost every given opportunity. California courts have adopted novel theories of liability and unique California laws…

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November 2018 Newsletter

Arkansas court ruling prevents counting medical liability votes Progress on liability reform in Arkansas hit a snag this fall, as a court ruling ahead of November elections hurt efforts for reforms to move forward. Medical liability reforms championed by Arkansas for Jobs and Justice, including limits on attorneys fees and reasonable caps on non-economic damages, were slated to appear on the November ballot as Issue 1. Initial circuit court challenges to the legitimacy of the ballot question due to the state’s single-subject test were appealed, but ultimately upheld by the state Supreme Court. Although the question still appeared on the ballot, the vote totals were not counted. While vote counts for some counties were released under a Freedom of Information Act request, Carl Vogelphol, campaign manager for Issue 1 proponent Arkansans for Jobs and Justice, said it was hard to know if the issue would have passed or not, but that “we were seeing internal data when the electorate was educated they would’ve voted for it.” To read more about the setback for Arkansas access to care, click here. Kentucky courts remove checks on liability lawsuit merits Legislation passed in 2017 that put in place a plan to ensure the…

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Cardiology malpractice suits up 91% from a decade ago

SOURCE: Cardiovascular Business – https://www.cardiovascularbusiness.com/topics/healthcare-economics/cardiology-malpractice-suits-91-2006 Rates of malpractice lawsuits in cardiology have followed a slow upward trajectory for the past decade and are continuing to climb, according to a review of more than 1,500 liability claims published in the American Journal of Cardiology this week. Frances Wang, MS, and Sandeep K. Krishnan, MD, conducted an analysis of 1,538 cardiology malpractice claims filed between 2006 and 2015 in an effort to characterize current malpractice trends and common sources of patient injury in the field. With the rise of “defensive medicine”—the idea that physicians treat their patients to avoid liability suits rather than provide the most beneficial care—the authors said the quality of healthcare in the U.S. is declining. Wang and Krishnan said defensive medicine is likely a driver behind the steady growth in average physician malpractice payments in recent years, which has followed the national trend of rising healthcare costs. “With increasing healthcare costs and the high cost of spending driven by defensive medicine, shedding light on recent litigation trends is critical for understanding current tort patterns, especially in the field of cardiology, a specialty with higher rates of malpractice suits than average,” the authors wrote in AJC. “Understanding the characteristics…

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SIDM Applauds Increased Federal Research Funding for Diagnostic Error

SOURCE: Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) – https://www.improvediagnosis.org/news/420714/SIDM-Applauds-Increased-Federal-Research-Funding-for-Diagnostic-Error.htm The FY 2019 spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services that was signed into law last week included $2 million in new funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) “to support grants to address diagnostic errors” and explore the process of establishing Centers for Diagnostic Excellence. The Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) believes this additional funding is important to develop specific approaches to reducing harm caused from diagnostic error and improve diagnostic quality and safety. “In 2015, the National Academies of Medicine declared that ‘improving the diagnostic process is not only possible, but it also represents a moral, professional, and public health imperative.’ Estimates are that 40,000 to 80,000 people die every year in hospitals as a result of wrong or delayed diagnosis,” said Paul Epner, SIDM’s Chief Executive Officer. “We know a lot about the major contributors to diagnostic errors that cause the most harm. At the same time, we need to support research efforts to learn more and to bring what we do know to scale.” Research on systems and methods to improve diagnosis is the most under-recognized and underfunded…

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