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Dead On Arrival: Med-mal Lawsuits Against Doctors, Nurses and Hospitals

You may not have noticed, but tort reform has done its job:  it's not worth an attorney's time and effort to file a medical malpractice case in California.  Today's Daily Journal (subscription required) published an article by Staff Writer Rebecca Beyer, who interviewed a former med-mal attorney, Linda F. Rice. 

The article notes Attorney Rice reviewed a "stack of potential cases she rejected outright:  a baby who died after waiting hours to be admitted into a pediatric unit, a teenage boy who died after his ventilator malfunctioned, a mother whose baby died in utero - doctors performed an emergency hysterectomy on her, eliminating her chance to have other children. 'These are all $250,000 cases in the state of California,'" Rice told the reporter.

At $250,000, an attorney can't afford to take the case for a possible $75,000 contingency fee.  It costs more than that for the attorney to litigate the case.  It's a matter of economics.  MICRA, the statute enacted in 1975 to cap malpractice recoveries against medical professionals, has capped at least one aspect of the profession.

So Attorney Rice, like many other med-mal plaintiff attorneys, has shifted practice areas and no longer takes medical malpractice cases.  One less Plaintiff's attorney in the mix.  Likewise, defense lawyers are shifting practice areas since there are no longer many suits against doctors, nurses and hospitals to defend.

MIPTC offers two observations:  why are medical professionals complaining about the high cost of malpractice insurance when lawsuits have virtually dropped off the map, and why are health insurance costs spiraling upward and out of control?

Maybe the legislature should look into making further changes in this industry.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, October 02, 2007

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