March 2, 2015
Most of us who practice tort law on the victim’s side have been saying this for years only to be faced with deaf politician ears who, on behalf of their deep pocketed masters, continued to spew the myth of Tort Reform. It is time to face reality and stop actively hurting the victims of medical negligence and instead focus on ways by which to reduce the numbers of medical malpractice cases by providing incentives to medical providers to engage in safe and negligent free medical treatment.
The second greatest trick may be the insurance industry’s success in getting more than half the states to implement “tort reform.” That achievement was based on the promise that restricting victims’ ability to bring medical malpractice suits would improve healthcare and reduce its cost. Those myths have now been completely dispelled.
The last bubble to burst was that because doctors are fearful of getting sued, they practice “defensive medicine,” prescribing unnecessary and costly tests and procedures. That myth was dispatched by the recent publication of a major study in the New England Journal of Medicine. A team of five doctors and public health experts found that tort reform measures passed in three states – specifically designed to insulate emergency room doctors from lawsuits — did nothing to reduce the number of expensive tests and procedures those ER doctors prescribed.
This latest study follows numerous others that deflated other tort reform myths: that making it harder for victims to file medical malpractice lawsuits would reduce the number of “frivolous” suits that “clog the courts;” that imposing caps on the damages victims could receive would reign in “out of control” juries that were awarding lottery-size sums to plaintiffs; and that malpractice insurance premiums would fall, thereby reversing a doctor shortage caused by specialists “fleeing the profession.”
October 8, 2014
October 6, 2014
My office has represented several patients in the past who have been victims of various nefarious activity by their dentist. One I remember was when the doctor supplied his patients with credit card applications to complete and pay for the sort of creative diagnosis he would come up with. In one instance, he even forged the signature of my client on one such application. When my client objected, the dentist filed a lawsuit against my client who then came and saw me. My office vigorously defendant the dentist’s lawsuit which ended up not only be dismissed but resulted in a settlement where the dentist ended up paying my client. Unfortunately, I see this sort of behavior by dentists is not very uncommon.
The article, by longtime pediatric dentist Jeffrey Camm, described a disturbing trend he called “creative diagnosis”—the peddling of unnecessary treatments. William van Dyk, a Northern California dentist of 41 years, saw Camm’s op-ed and wrote in: “I especially love the patients that come in for second opinions after the previous dentist found multiple thousands of dollars in necessary treatment where nothing had been found six months earlier. And, when we look, there is nothing to diagnose.”
“In recent years, I have been seeing more and more creative diagnosis,” Camm told me when I called him at his practice in Washington state. A dentist, he said, might think, “‘Well, the insurance covers this crown, so I’m not hurting this patient, so why don’t I just do it?’ That’s the absolutely wrong approach.”
Poking around, I found plenty of services catering to dentists hoping to increase their incomes. One lecturer at a privately operated seminar called The Profitable Dentist $389 aimed to help “dentists to reignite their passion for dentistry while increasing their profit and time away from the office.” Even the ADA’s 2014 annual conference offered tips for maximizing revenue: “Taking time to help our patients want what we know they need,” notes one session description, “can drive the economic and reward engine of our practice.”
September 22, 2014
The idea that Tort Reform was going to have any effect on the cost of American Health Care system has been shown time and time again to be nothing but a myth. Tort Reform has been, and continues to be an effort to prevent victims of medical negligence to seek reasonable compensation for their injuries and the cost of dealing with those injuries in the past, present and more importantly the future. It stands to reason that the Insurance Industry gains but limiting recoveries and even reducing verdicts–never mind that a verdict in favor of a plaintiff is by definition evidence that the case just tried was not frivolous!–after a jury has deliberated on the evidence presented.
Tort reform,” which is usually billed as the answer to “frivolous malpractice lawsuits,” has been a central plank in the Republican program for healthcare reform for decades.
The notion has lived on despite copious evidence that that the so-called defensive medicine practiced by doctors merely to stave off lawsuits accounts for, at best, 2% to 3% of U.S. healthcare costs. As for “frivolous lawsuits,” they’re a problem that exists mostly in the minds of conservatives and the medical establishment.
A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association aimed to measure how much defensive medicine there is, really, and how much it costs. The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending. In other words, out of the estimated $2.7-trillion U.S. healthcare bill, defensive medicine accounts for $78 billion.
As Aaron Carroll observes at the AcademyHealth blog, $78 billion is “not chump change … but it’s still a very small component of overall health care spending.” Any “tort reform” stringent enough to make that go away would likely create other costs, such as a rise in medical mistakes generated by the elimination of the oversight exercised by the court system.
Since it doesn’t appear that “tort reform” would have any effect on this spending, Carroll says, “there seems little reason to pursue it as a means to dramatically reduce health care spending in the United States.”
September 19, 2014
The plaintiff, Christopher Connors, had a safety belt around his waist that was supplied by Big Joe Manufacturing Company, which designed and manufactured the lift. But the belt was loose and slipped off over his head when he fell from the platform.
Connors, who was 29 at the time, suffered severe spine and back injuries. The lawsuit alleged Big Joe, the defendant, was negligent in that it failed to mandate the use of a full body harness as a fall protection system and provided Best Buy with unsafe instructions and warnings.
September 17, 2014
This is epic! There are often times when I suspect a defense firm of playing not entirely by the rules, but those suspicions always remain at the suspicion stage and do not end up translating themselves into actual proof of malfeasance–although it is not the result of a lack of trying, it is just that either we are overly suspicious or those who do this sort off the rules acts are just very good at it. This finding however, makes me feel that perhaps I am not overly suspicious… Read on!
Last week, an extraordinary decision was issued by the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in an asbestos case, which really should rock the corporate defense bar. In the case, Kimberlee Williams, et al. v. BASF Catalysts LLC, et al., asbestos victims provided evidence to the court that “that BASF and [‘the New York law firm that defended it for years in asbestos cases, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP’] systematically collected and destroyed or hid evidence of asbestos-contaminated products produced by a BASF predecessor, Engelhard, in order to evade liability and forge quick settlements.” See more here. It was enough evidence to revive a fraud case against BASF and its law firm for “lying about the toxic material, then depriving those injured by it of their day in court.”
This federal decision comes in the wake of fraud allegations made against a company called Garlock Sealing Technologies, which makes asbestos-containing gaskets. In that case, victims’ lawyers were initially accused of withholding certain information from Garlock – an absurd claim because, as I wrote in an earlier post, the supposedly “withheld” information was already in the company’s possession. If I were accused of committing fraud when I did no such thing, I’d start looking into it. And that’s exactly what happened, leading to a brief filed in June by Caplin & Drysdale, finding a ton of evidence proving the exact opposite to be true; that Garlock was the party that “violated [the judges’] discovery orders, hid evidence from the bankruptcy court and presented false testimony …. ‘Garlock has committed a fraud upon the court,’ the accompanying memo said in its first sentence.'” It’s a brutal brief, which you can read here.
September 15, 2014
They say Democracy dies in secrecy and transparency helps promote it. Unless we are talking about protection of trade secrets (an am trying to be as lenient as possible) I see no reason why the Public should not have access to the documents that have been filed in Court and should presumably be open for the public’s scrutiny.
In United States ex rel. Harman v. Trinity, a federal whistleblower case involving dangerously defective highway guardrails, the court has ordered Trinity Industries, Inc. to show why records in the case should remain sealed from public view after the trial. Over the course of the case, dozens of key briefs and pleadings were filed under seal without any showing that secrecy was warranted, in violation of the public’s presumptive right of access to court records. The secret documents may contain important information on the safety of Trinity’s guardrails, which have been linked to numerous deaths and serious injuries.
The court’s order was issued in response to a motion to intervene and unseal filed by Public Justice on behalf of two non-profit safety groups, the Center for Auto Safety and The Safety Institute. The nonprofits are seeking to open the records because of the serious safety risks posed by hundreds of thousands of guardrails that have been installed in all fifty states – with federal financial assistance – to protect people in highway crashes. U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap denied the motion to intervene on Sept. 4, but at the same time he affirmed the groups’ contention that Trinity must justify why these important records are shielded from public view.
Judge Gilstrap wrote: “the Court takes seriously the public’s right of access regarding trials and evidence presented in judicial proceedings, as well as the Court’s role in enforcing such access. Accordingly, following the trial and return of a verdict in this case, the Court will enter an Order requiring the parties to show good cause why previously sealed testimony, evidence or other material should remain under seal.”
September 9, 2014
This is very important news. Releasing publicly and naming providers who commit easily preventable mistakes such as leaving a foreign object inside a patient after a surgery is done will go a long way in helping these Hospitals to improve their practices. The important thins to remember is that these are mistakes that are preventable and leads to patient death or further injuries and complications.
This is very different and distinct from an operation that does not lead to an expected result–medicine is an art and human body is a complicated machine and bad results may occur absent any sort of negligence.
Federal regulators are reversing course and will resume publicly releasing data on hospital mistakes, including when foreign objects are left in patients’ bodies or people get the wrong blood type.
USA TODAY reported last month that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly stopped publicly reporting a host of life-threatening mistakes, after denying in 2013 that it would do so.
CMS says it will make this data on eight “hospital-acquired conditions” HACs available on its website.
“We are working to make it available as a public-use file for researchers and others who are interested in the data,” CMS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mail. “It’s been requested, so we will make it available.”