Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

According to Washingtonian, the average medical malpractice award in Maryland is $319,977, which is approximately $35,000 more than the national average. The average medical liability premium for specialists is $100,625, compared with the national average of $65,489. Not noted: just how much the average specialist makes in a year. (Hint: it is a lot.)

medical malpractice verdicts

The article does not define what type of award it is. I assume it means the settlement or verdict.

A West Virginia man sued a Frederick, Maryland doctor, alleging that he stapled his rectum shut during an operation leaving the 64-year-old man with permanent bowel problems. The Plaintiff now experiences rectal discharge and needs to wipe himself between 12 and 15 times a day. This is a damages case with a real appeal for a jury because obviously, this is a life-altering injury.

The doctor’s medical malpractice lawyer’s argument: his bowels were swollen shut because he was a smoker. No, really, that was the argument.

Okay, this is a case that should just settle, right? Well, the doctor makes no offer, and the jury validates their offer with a defense verdict.

I found a new blog called ER Stories – Shocking, Hilarious, Bizarre, and Sad Tales from the ER. It is an anonymously written blog by an emergency room doctor.

I have a bit of a problem assessing the credibility of someone who refuses to identify themselves. Does the American Medical Association take a position on this? I also notice the site has a lot of prominently placed Google ads. To borrow the old Seinfeld line, “Not that there is anything wrong with it.” But it is worth noting.

Anyway, one of his leitmotifs is frivolous medical malpractice cases, as evidenced by his post called “What a Wonderful Legal System We Have.” He tells an incredible story of a patient who came in with a fractured ankle but ran out of the hospital to flee the police. After getting arrested a few days later, he gets treatment and then brought a medical malpractice claim against the hospital, which the hospital settled for $10,000.

With all due respect to fellow trial lawyer John Edwards, the Democratic race seems to be all about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Regarding tort reform, both seem to be on the side of allowing juries to make the call regarding whether and how much compensation should be awarded. In fact, back in their civil days (as in civil to each other) they co-authored an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled “Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform.”

Still, I suspect Hillary Clinton is the safer play for trial lawyers. Obama has taken a mild shot at trial lawyers in the past. Campaigning for the Senate in 2004, he was quoted as saying, “Anyone who denies there’s a crisis with medical malpractice is probably a trial lawyer.” But, obviously, taking a shot at medical malpractice lawyers is just smart politics and I don’t think this changes his position that juries should have the authority to determine who gets what without intervention from statutes or anything else.

Perhaps more telling when comparing the two candidates, Senator Obama was among the 18 of 44 democratic senators voting for the Class Action Reform Act. In contrast, Senator Clinton (and Senator Edwards), voted against the Act, believing that it would deny remedies for many in their local state courts.

The Charleston Daily Mail reports that the West Virginia Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a $1.7 million medical malpractice verdict against a West Virginia physician who blinded a patient during an elective surgical procedure. This is the second article I have seen on this case.

The first article was after the jury rendered its verdict. The interesting thing about the case is that the doctor’s lawyers essentially alleged that the plaintiff was faking his injury. All the articles I have seen have said the same thing. The defendants presented 50 hours of surveillance video from a construction site, but the trial judge found the video showed, “Heckel was disabled, even though the defense omitted footage showing him struggling at such tasks as walking down steps.” You can Google that sentence and you will find it in several articles. But it makes no sense. Did the jury consider the evidence or was it inadmissible? What happened to the omitted footage? Was it destroyed? What was the practical effect of the judge’s ruling? (If anyone knows, let me know.)

But the interesting thing is that that doctor’s lawyers apparently wanted to use the snippets from 50 hours of surveillance that would lead the jury to believe that he might not be blind, but wanted to omit (or delete) the evidence that showed he was blind. It seems like this doctor’s medical malpractice lawyers had a pretty difficult time showing the doctor did not commit medical malpractice, so they took a shot at attacking the plaintiff. This usually backfires, just as it did in this medical malpractice case.  

Later this month, the Illinois cap on non-economic damages ($500,000 for a doctor and $1 million for a hospital) in medical malpractice cases will receive state constitutional review by a judge in infamous Cook County, Illinois.

Just like in Maryland, the political climate has changed since the medical malpractice “reform” in 2005. Medical malpractice payouts in 2006 fell, even though the new law impacted only a small handful of cases that resolved in 2006. Medical malpractice insurance premiums have fallen. In Maryland, Med Mutual reportedly cut premiums by 8% in 2007. Medical malpractice lawyers told the legislatures that the insurance companies had essentially cooked the books, creating a crisis that was mostly created by low-interest rates. History is bearing out this warning as premiums are falling and insurance companies’ profits are skyrocketing. I don’t think anyone should begrudge the insurance companies’ profits (or their CEOs’ large salaries for that matter as many plaintiffs’ lawyers wrongfully do, in my opinion). But those facts do not square up with their “sky is falling” warnings of doom.

The case on review in Cook County involves a baby with severe brain damage. Proponents of a cap argue that $500,000 (or $680,000 in Maryland) is an appropriate cap on non-economic damages for a child to go through life with a brain injury. Plaintiffs’ medical malpractice lawyers and their clients, to put it mildly, strongly disagree.