Judge Bruce Anderson made another important ruling: that even people on the credentialing committee may be subject to suit. This has not real practical implications because a hospitals is going to stand behind the committee. But it is never fun to be sued personally even if you have no real exposure.
The judge also found that hospitals cannot claim peer review privileges, as an absolute defense against discovery requests. This is very pro patient safety and could be a ruling that could start to erode the absolute defense from discovery; that has long been the case in Maryland and in most states. The judge’s logic: hospitals may have an obligation, in some cases, to the public that outweighs peer review confidentiality. Makes a lot of sense to me.
Jury Verdict Research conducted a study and found that the median award in a personal injury case is approximately $100,000. This is twice the national average. The bad news for New Jersey Plaintiffs is that they only win in 36 percent of personal injury cases that go to trial.
New Jersey has a good sample size to work with to compute this data. Over 130,000 civil lawsuits are filed every year. I don’t have data on how many of them are personal injury cases. But I can estimate: a lot.
Here are 5 interesting Virginia jury verdicts in 2015 that you might find interesting:
$13,000 Settlement – A 31 year-old man is driving his car on the highway at a rate of around 60 mph. He approaches an intersection where a woman driving a pickup truck is attempting to make a turn in the middle of the intersection. She starts to travel out into the intersection but stops upon seeing another driver’s car trying to make a left turn in front of her. Contact was unavoidable at that point, and the woman clips the man’s tires. He immediately complains of neck pain and is transported to the hospital via EMS, where doctors diagnose him with soft tissue injuries. He sues both of the involved drivers, claiming that they were negligent in the operation of their vehicles. The defendants contend that plaintiffs injuries were actually from a motorcycle accident that he sustained years ago. Prior to trial, the parties settle for $13,000.
$450,000 Verdict – A woman is descending the stairs at her row home when she slips on one of the middle steps. She reaches for the hand rail, but just misses it, causing her to fall down the remaining stairs. The woman calls an ambulance, which transports her to the emergency room. At the ER, she is diagnosed with a fractured shin bone and a tear of the quadriceps. She has to receive care after the fall given that her leg is immobilized. After the accident, she sues the property-owner, alleging negligent maintenance of the stairs. In her lawsuit, she brings up the fact that she had told the property-manager about how slippery the stairs were on two occasions. At trial, her stair-expert suggests that the stairs were covered with too much polyurethane. This convinces the jury, who awards her $450,000.
I think sample settlements and verdicts are a useful tool in conjunction with other tools to help victims better understand at least the range of values in a medical malpractice case. Clearly, no two cases are the same and you cannot summarizes a case in a paragraph. Sometimes, I have tried or settled cases where there is no way I could summarize the case in a way that would explain why the plaintiff won or why the verdict was as high or low as it was. Said differently, reading these is important and education in understanding the value of medical malpractice claims in Illinois but you can only learn so much from these. If you have what appears to be an exactly identical case, the results could be very different.
All of these verdicts are from 2014. Illinois is a big state A lot of cases go to trial here.
After a divided Supreme Court of Missouri found the legislature’s $350,000 statutory cap unconstitutional 2 year ago, opponents of letting juries decide just how victims should be compensated said the sky was going to fall in Missouri. Last September, Missouri Supreme Court nixed a statutory limit on the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded against defendants. Tort reformers screamed doctors would flee, malpractice rates would skyrocket, and no one would want to do business in Missouri. This never happened. But now, some in the Missouri legislature want to pretend that never happened and want to take another shot at caps.
Many states are trying to carve out malpractice caps and different standards of care for emergency room doctors in medical malpractice cases. The thinking starts out okay. Emergency department doctors should be given the benefit of the doubt because things are happening so quickly. But ER doctor are always getting the benefit of the doubt from jurors. There is statistical evidence of this. More importantly, the standard of care already bakes in the fact that things are sometimes happening at the speed of light in the ER. That is why reasonableness is always based on all of the facts and circumstances.
In Bagley v. Rochester General Hospital, a woman presented to the renal dialysis unit with complaints of abdominal pain, constipation, and complications from end-stage diabetic renal disease. This was, regrettably, not a healthy woman. The hospital did some tests and sent the woman to the emergency room believing that she had bacterial peritonitis as a result of being on dialysis. The woman’s condition went downhill from there and she died of cardiac arrest. Plaintiff contends that the real problem was a ruptured acute appendicitis, not peritonitis.
Let me start with a blunt statement: our law firm would never take this case. Let’s assume it is exactly as the victim’s family says. The hospital’s doctors screwed up and misdiagnosed the patient. Even if this is true — I would bet that, although it is just a hunch on these facts — I don’t think it is a viable medical malpractice action.
There are a lot of differences between good hospitals and bad hospitals. It is an all too common trope to claim that one thing encapsulates the differences between good and bad. It is always more complicated than that one little thing. That said, if you watch hospitals closely, it is amazing how often you see the best hospitals – the Mayo Clinic, Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic – owning up to their own mistakes and trying to figure out new ways to conquer them.
Tufts Medical Center also appears to be on that list although maybe more reluctantly and with a bit more dragging of them then we might want. Specifically, Tufts is attacking a problem that causes malpractice that last November, unleashed hospital and government inquiries that have led to widespread safety improvements in Tufts operating rooms this year and highlighted medical errors involving “cognitive bias” — an area of growing interest among researchers. Continue reading