Campaign donations linked to expanding litigation laws in New York

In pursuit of new avenues that would allow for an expanded ability to file liability lawsuits in New York, personal injury lawyers have pumped an increasing amount of money into the campaign coffers of elected officials across the state.

It is no surprise that these campaign contributions have been made in parallel with a ramp up in efforts to enact new state laws that impact medical liability.

According to the American Tort Reform Association, the top 20 plaintiffs’ law firms donated $4.7 million to New York’s lawmakers between 2017 and 2023.

At the same time, trial lawyers and their affiliates spent more than $97 million on more than one million local legal services advertisements across New York state in 2023 – nearly six percent higher than the year prior.

ATRA calls the resulting effect on New York residents a “tort tax” that adds up to more than $2,300 in frivolous legal costs that fall on taxpayers.

“Excessive legal advertising creates a culture of litigation and inflates costs,” said ATRA President Tiger Joyce. “Additionally, the close financial ties between trial lawyers and politicians raise concerns about undue influence and a lack of transparency.”

ATRA has long considered New York City a “judicial hellhole” for the outsized number of expensive, meritless lawsuits that originate in its court system.

To read more about the link between ever-expanding litigation laws and campaign contributions, click here.


COVID-era immunity veil pierces by New York court

With the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic long in the past, the collective memories of New York state courts remain short on recalling the challenges of providing care amid changing public health guidance.

This comes as a state appeals court rules that a Staten Island nursing home must face a pandemic-era liability lawsuit that highlights continued risks to practitioners in the absence of comprehensive federal pandemic protections.

In its defense, the facility argued that claims about its infection control policies and practices during the pandemic were covered by both New York’s Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act (EDTPA) and the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act.

The appeals court judge’s decision limits the reach of immunity the state granted health care providers during the pandemic. This lack of expected limited immunity could open the door for further medical lawsuit abuse stemming from COVID-related claims.

Appeals will likely continue, with the possibility that a review could come from the Supreme Court on the PREP Act application. Courts in other states have been divided on similar issues.

The Health Coalition on Liability and Access has long warned of a rise in lawsuits resulting from health care workforce shortages, inadequate safety supplies, and changing guidance from federal, state, and local government officials that were typical in the early stages of the pandemic.

Click here to read more about the challenges and uncertainty that persists for health care providers, long after the peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Sound policies must accompany augmented intelligence

Physicians are looking to policymakers for guidance on managing emerging risks from augmented intelligence tools, with the American Medical Association aggressively advocating for a positive way forward that protects patients and practitioners.

AI is changing the narrative of health care conversations at the federal level, with policies yet to be formed regarding the burden of liability.

While heath care technology companies take the position that practitioners using AI tools are ultimately responsible for their decisions, the AMA suggests that improvements in care through use of the tools are possible, but only if doctors trust the systems and are protected from liability.

Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), a urologist and co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, recently wrote to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf to inquire about the Administration’s position.

Rep. Murphy’s letter offered a “safe harbor” approach that would apply to doctors and the AI products they use if both join a surveillance program tracking patient outcomes. But no policy in this regard has been developed, nor is there a bill pending in Congress.

This uncertainty is leaving practitioners, in some cases, unwilling to adopt the latest AI tools – another risk in and of itself.

All of this takes place against a backdrop where liability payouts have spiked to over $3 billion in recent years, and premiums have increased by double-digits for many physicians.

These burdens highlight how both patients and practitioners can benefit from sound AI health care policies that improve care and reduces adverse outcomes, tempering insurance costs.

Click here to read more about what’s at stake for health care delivery as AI adoption accelerates.