Articles Posted in New York

The learned intermediary doctrine provides that makers of prescription drugs and medical devices discharge their obligation to consumers by providing warnings to the prescribing doctor. In other words, drug and device companies have no obligation to directly warn patients about the risks associated with their drugs or medical devices.

The historic rationale for this rule is that prescription drugs are often complex and prescribing doctors can take into account the propensities of the drug, and the susceptibilities of his patient and properly weigh the risk against the benefits. But, arguably, all of this is premised on the notion that drug companies are talking to doctors and not consumers.

Today, drug companies talk to us about their drugs every time we pick up a paper or turn on the television. Does this make the learned intermediary doctrine obsolete? Apparently, some New York legislatures do, proposing a bill to eliminate the learned intermediary doctrine. I first read about this from the Drug and Device Law Blog, a defense-oriented blog that naturally opposes the bill.

A report released last week by the Manhattan Institute — “Greater Justice, Lower Cost: How a ‘Loser Pays’ Rule Would Improve the American Legal System” — says making personal injury lawsuit losers pay the winner’s legal expenses would improve the fairness of our legal system.

“The integrity of our legal system is under assault. Establishing loser-pays rules and other tort reforms can help restore citizens’ faith in the bedrock of society — justice, fairness, and the rule of law,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani wrote in the preface to the report. (With the election over, Giuliani is apparently capable of complete sentences that do not contain 9/11. I am a little surprised.)
I have not given the issue any thought. I think the problem is that it presents an intimidating bar for Plaintiffs who have been the victim of someone else’s negligence in a case that is not clear cut. Do we want to discourage those suits? —–

Personal injury verdict reviews reports on $3,990,000 settlement in a cerebral palsy case in New York. Plaintiff alleged hospital malpractice in failing to train and supervise its medical team who administered an excessive amount of fluid to the infant, causing the child to become waterlogged and develop life-threatening hyponatremia. Plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer’s theory of the case was that the hospital should have used (1) a more concentrated solution in a peripheral line and (2) the hospital should have installed a central line, causing them to use too much fluid to deliver adequate amounts of sugar to the child.

Plaintiff’s counsel was Richard A. Gurfein. The case was defended by Lake Success lawyer Henry Zee. Plaintiff’s expert witnesses included Edmund H. Mantell, Ph.D. (economist in White Plains, New York) Daniel Adler, M.D. (pediatric neurologist), and Joseph Carfi, M.D.(rehab expert).

The New York Medical Malpractice Law Blog – which I found via the New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog – reports on something I did not know: electronic medical records are now being widely utilized in Great Britain. For one, York Hospital is now using electronic medical records in an effort to improve communication among doctors in treating patients.

The reality is that this is a public safety issue, but it’s also an “it is 2008 and we have no money left in the budget” issue. The federal government pays for nearly 40% of the over $1.3 trillion spent on medical care in this country and spends millions more providing disability benefits to medical malpractice victims. Besides saving potentially thousands of lives, electronic medical records will reduce the costs associated with medical malpractice, and the government and our health care system will see significant savings in the long run. This will decrease medical malpractice lawsuits which will lower medical malpractice premiums.

All good. What is the problem? The problem is the cost. While a national system of computerized medical records is on Obama’s wish list, that list is getting cutback as we look at the economic realities of our federal budget considering our country’s financial crisis. Ironically, this is the perfect project for deficit spending because it is not a money pit – electronic medical records will save us more in the long run than the 3% interest the government would pay for the investment. But while I’d love to be wrong about this, I do not see a great push for electronic medical records in Obama’s first term.

The widow of a man whose brain was allegedly taken without permission for medical study has filed a lawsuit against the hospital and the medical examiner who performed the man’s autopsy. According to the lawsuit, neither plaintiff nor her deceased husband signed an organ donation card, and the brain is still missing.

The lawsuit seeks $4 million against Mount Sinai in damages. This woman, while I am very sorry that she lost her husband, does not want me on the jury. My question would be why are you and your husband not organ donors? I hate these kinds of lawsuits and I wish these types of claims never found a lawyer who would take them.

I tried a case last week. We did not get a good outcome because, in the end, the jury did not believe my client was still suffering from her injuries. These kinds of cases just don’t help.

Newsday reports that a New York jury awarded a woman $10.7 million in a medical malpractice case against a hospital in Queens. The woman became partially paralyzed after waiting two hours for a brain scan at a Queens hospital. The jury found the woman was cleared for a brain scan two hours before she got one. The purpose of the test was intended to check for bleeding.

The Plaintiff lapsed into a coma in the emergency room less than an hour after the scan. The Plaintiff is now in a wheelchair.

New York’s brand of tort reform caps the fees of New York medical malpractice lawyers as opposed to the award to the malpractice victim. In the end, the real loser is medical malpractice victims because lawyers will not take their case because risking potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars is not worth the risk (most medical malpractice lawyers front the costs and the victim is not obligated to pay the monies back if there is no recovery). But this case certainly did not fall into that category and is one of the few that actually meets the goals of this otherwise warped New York medical malpractice statute.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Sides v. St. Anthony’s Medical Center, that plaintiffs in a medical malpractice cases in Missouri may rely on an expert’s opinion that the injury would not have happened in the absence of the defendants’ negligence even without a specific proof of a negligent act. The court adopted the Restatement of Torts rule that if a medical malpractice plaintiff cannot demonstrate which specific act of negligence caused the injury but can demonstrate the potential causes are within the control of the doctor, and the injury would not occur in the absence of negligence, then a medical malpractice plaintiff has jumped over the motion to dismiss/summary judgment hurdle.

The defendant’s medical malpractice lawyer argued that Hasemeier v. Smith, 361 S.W.2d 697 (Mo. banc 1962), an OB/GYN medical malpractice case, was controlling. In that case, the court found that generally res ipsa loquitur is not applicable in medical malpractice cases. The Missouri Supreme Court did not overrule Hasemeier but it may as well have.

The Missouri high court’s ruling, in this case, is consistent with common sense and, as the court noted, the trend in many other states including Kentucky, Nebraska, and New York.

New York limits an attorneys medical malpractice contingent fee in a medical, dental or podiatric malpractice case to 30 percent of the first $ 250,000 of the sum recovered; 25 percent of the next $ 250,000 recovered; 20 percent of the next $ 500,000 recovered; 15 percent of the next $ 250,000 of the sum recovered; 10 percent of any amount recovered over $ 1,250,000.

While contingency fees vary from malpractice lawyer to malpractice lawyer, 40% is a common fee in medical malpractice cases. So if a case settles, or the plaintiff gets a verdict for $1,000,000, the attorneys’ fees, in many cases, is $400,000. In New York, when a malpractice case recovers $1,000,000, the malpractice lawyer’s fee is limited to $225,000.

If you are not a malpractice lawyer, you might think that this is not a bad payday for a single case. You are right. But the problem is that plaintiffs’ medical malpractice lawyers lose most cases. When a lawyer loses a case, he might lose $100,000 or more in out-of-pocket costs. This discourages many good lawyers from handling medical malpractice cases.

The Times Union (Albany, New York) reports that after a three-week trial before Supreme Court Judge Michael Lynch, a jury awarded Watervliet man and his wife $1.87 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit Tuesday against a doctor who Plaintiffs alleged failure to detect and disclose a high glucose condition leading to a stroke.

Specifically, the jury believed it was negligent not to advise the Plaintiff of the results of a blood glucose study that had been done. The jury found the doctor’s negligence was a “substantial factor” in his stroke. The doctor’s lawyer contended that there is no evidence the Plaintiff would have acted had he been given the results of the blood glucose test.

Samaritan Hospital was also a named defendant, but the jury did not find that the hospital was negligent.

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