December 2018 Newsletter

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  • December 20, 2018

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. “This alone could save large sums of money as plaintiffs would no longer be compensated twice for the same services by both insurance companies and defendants dealing with noneconomic damages.”
The Health Coalition on Liability and Access has long pushed for changes to collateral source rules as part of comprehensive medical liability reform. The HCLA’s model provision would make juries aware of collateral source payments and allow offsets for those payments, while providing full and unlimited compensation to deserving patients.
To read more about the dire need for such reform in Florida, click here.

“Judicial Hellholes” report highlights familiar foes of liability reform

The annual “Judicial Hellholes” report released by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) is a list of the usual state suspects with unfriendly liability climates and threats to patient access to care.
Many of the states highlighted on the list are frequently mentioned as places where jackpot justice is high, legislatures and courts have rolled back reforms, and personal injury attorneys from out of state flood the courts with meritless lawsuits.
High on the list this year is New York City, where the state’s highest court has “stacked the deck against defendants in personal injury litigation,” according to the report. It also cites the increasing involvement of hedge funds in litigation and driving up the cost of cases in the state.
Another familiar foe was the city of Philadelphia, and its Court of Common Pleas, where “mass tort cases continue to flood the Philadelphia court system due to judges’ loose application of venue laws and an overall lack of legal reform,” the report cited. The state’s Supreme Court was also on ATRA’s watch list this year, due to a series of liability-expanding decisions.
All of the jurisdictions mentioned contributed to the high cost of the U.S. tort system, totaling $429 billion – 2.3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product – according to a recent study released by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
To review the full list of “Judicial Hellholes” and the states and courts high on ATRA’s watch list, click here.

Puerto Rico approves law to reduce liability lawsuits

Puerto Rico’s governor has signed a law to help reduce the number of medical liability lawsuits, announcing that he will create a series of panels to review liability claims across the U.S. territory.
The initiative by Governor Rossello hopes that these panels will reduce the 90 percent of medical liability lawsuits each year that are eventually dismissed without payment. Each panel will be comprised of three individuals, including a health expert, a public advocate, and a lawyer or former judge.
All patients making complaints—except indigent persons —will be required to make a bond-like payment to the panel. If the panel finds evidence of malpractice, the money would be returned.
Similar panels have been enacted in several U.S. states and the governor expressed hope this action will help stem the exodus of doctors to the mainland. Click here to read more about this initiative to reduce medical lawsuit abuse and increase access to care in Puerto Rico.

Thank you for your support – and best wishes for a healthy 2019

As another year full of continued engagement on the need for medical liability reform has passed, Protect Patients Now looks back on the successes of the year and begins to set the path forward for 2019.
Our grassroots network played an important role in advancing federal initiatives, including Good Samaritan legislation, taking action through e-mails and social media messages to Senators on key committees who were in a position to advance the bill.
While this progress was promising, liability laws remain vulnerable at the state level, with setbacks in a number of states that necessitate continued education on how liability reform reduces costs and increases access to care.
Protect Patients Now looks forward to being a continued source of information and engagement in 2019 and wishes you and your family peace, prosperity, and good health in the New Year.