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Tort reform, a hotly debated issue in the legal community, is proving a failed experiment. A jury in one of New York’s most conservative counties recently returned a $130 million dollar verdict in a medical malpractice case, the second-largest in the state’s history. The $8 million dollar settlement, proposed by the hospital’s lawyers prior to trial, was turned down by the plaintiff’s attorneys, sending the issue to trial.

New York imposes no cap on pain-and-suffering awards, and only limits fees for winning lawyers at 10 percent (if such award is more than $1.25 million). 29 states currently have monetary caps on plaintiff awards.

Lawyers for the hospital called the jury “out of control”, and are now pushing for even further reform.

Large verdicts may, however, be the most effective driving force in health care reform and patient safety, with recent cases revealing avoidable errors and righting wrongs which may have been unavailable had such reforms in tort liability been executed.

Although tort reform in-and-of itself is laudable, attempting to keep frivolous cases out of our legal system, such reform has in fact made the situation much worse.

Also billed as a way to reduce malpractice insurance premiums, tort reform has not evidenced any reduction, and the industry has in fact seen an opposite trend.

Only one group of medical professionals has seen a drop in premiums, Anesthesiologists. The drop did not come from tort reform. Instead, the drop came from a reform of their own procedures. Increases in safety, doctor and patient assessment, and improvements throughout the industry, have produced a decrease in both avoidable injuries and premiums, with the two continuing to fall annually.


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  1. Gravatar for jc

    Jim Lewis presents such a target rich environment with this blog that I feel like a misquitoe in a nudist colony. It is a total lie that tort reform does not reduce malpractice premiums. In Ohio, my malpractice premiums dropped 40% after tort reform. My colleague went to Texas which has more aggressive tort reform and his malpractice premiums are about a third of what I pay. So Jim's blog provides the prefect rationale for tort reform--to prevent run away jury awards. If that large award is enforced the hospital will be forced into bankruptsy throwing hundreds of people out of work so a greedy plaintiff attorney can collect a multimillion dollar contingency fee!

  2. Gravatar for jc

    Jim, here is a sure fire way to reduce and eliminate frivolous malpractice litigation: allow doctors to countersue plaintiff attorneys for the frivolous lawsuit! Lets face it, 85% of jury verdicts go for the defendant doc, why shouldn't we docs be able to hold plaintiff attorneys accountable for their wrongful litigation. These plaintiff attorneys know when their lawsuits have little merit.

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