Category Archives: News

March 2018 Newsletter

Bad examples: New York, Pennsylvania lead national liability rates Without reform to keep medical lawsuit abuse in check, examples of the inefficiencies of our nation’s liability system are emerging in several states in the form of increasingly large payouts. According to a recent survey by Diederich Health Care, a medical liability insurance and consulting company, New York topped the list for the largest liability payouts in 2017 with a total of nearly $618 million, with Pennsylvania second at $342 million and Illinois not far behind with $301 million. What do these states have in common? None have reasonable limits on non-economic damages in place, with liability climates that have worsened in recent years due to lawmakers who are more likely to push for changes that benefit personal injury attorneys rather than patients. In New York, 30,000 members of the Medical Society of the State of New York opposed extending the state’s statute of limitations on liability claims because it would increase their already high liability costs and drive more doctors out of the state. Unfortunately, the law passed, lengthening the statute of limitations from 15 to 30 months, beginning not when the error occurred, but the date at which the…

Read More

Bill would give liability protection to volunteer doctors in bid to cover low-income Wyomingites

Physicians and health facilities that provide voluntary care to low-income patients would have state protection for liability lawsuits under a bill being considered in the Wyoming Senate. The bill — Senate File 66 — would allow the Wyoming Department of Health to contract with volunteer health providers and facilities to make them state employees. That way, the state would “have the duty to defend a health care provider alleged to have been negligent” in delivering care. The voluntary health providers or facilities would have to offer care to low-income patients, meaning people with an income at or beneath 200 percent of the current federal poverty line, according to the bill. The measure — originally sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee — was approved by two Senate subcommittees and is currently set to be considered by the entire body. The liability of volunteer physicians has been a concern of the medical community, said Stefan Johansson, the policy administrators for the health department. “I expect there has been hesitation” to provide volunteer care, agreed Kevin Bohnenblust, the executive director of the Wyoming Board of Medicine. “That’s the nature of the times we live in.” The bill would cost about $50,000 a…

Read More

Medical tort-reform bill moves to House

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Senate approved an omnibus medical tort-reform measure yesterday that would regulate everything from trial attorney fees, medical record copying charges and which malpractice lawsuits can advance in the courts. Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 20 would require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit. That’s a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit. A medical review panel opinion in favor of a patient would fulfill the affidavit of merit requirement. Senate Bill 4 from 2017 created panels of experts to review claims of medical error or neglect. If the medical review panel finds in favor of the medical provider, however, the patient would still have to get an affidavit of merit to advance to court. A second provision would impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. An amendment would set those caps at no more than 33 percent of any awarded damages. “Some will argue this is an infringement on the free market,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who introduced the legislation. “I feel it is a protection against predatory legal practices in Kentucky.” A third provision is known as the “I’m sorry” clause. It would…

Read More

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…

Read More

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

Tort Reform Roundup: Kentucky & Missouri

In this edition of Tort Reform Roundup, we look at a pair of states considering some major tort reform initiatives. In Kentucky, a sweeping measure aimed at capping attorney fees on medical malpractice damages, has passed the State Senate Health & Welfare Committee and now awaits a vote in the Senate. Meanwhile, the state of Missouri is mulling over a proposal that would shrink the time for filing personal injury lawsuits. Kentucky The state currently has no cap on damages in any type of injury. State Senator Ralph Alvarado aims to change that with SB-20, a bill that seeks to impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. The limits in this provision would allow a lawyer to make $60,000 of contingency fees if their client wins $200,000 in damages, or $140,000 if their client wins $1 million in damages. Other provisions would exempt medical peer review discussions from discovery, require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit (a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit), and allow healthcare workers to express condolences to patients or families without fear of having those words used against them in a lawsuit. Alvarado has…

Read More

Senate panel explores medical tort-reform bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A sweeping measure to regulate everything from trial attorney fees, medical record copying charges and how malpractice lawsuits are brought passed the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee yesterday. The legislation was described as an omnibus medical tort-reform bill by sponsor Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 20 would require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit. That’s a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit. A medical review panel opinion in favor of a patient would fulfill the affidavit of merit requirement. Senate Bill 4 from 2017 created panels of experts to review claims of medical error or neglect. If the medical review panel finds in favor of the medical provider, however, the patient would still have to get an affidavit of merit to advance to court. A second provision would impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. The limits in this provision would still allow a lawyer to make $60,000 of contingency fees if their client wins $200,000 or $140,000 if their client wins $1 million, according to the language in SB 20. A third provision would attempt to exempt medical…

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

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

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 the state and for…

Read More