Additional Specialized Medical Malpractice Courts, a Step in the Right Direction

Malpractice costs are among the factors that not only drive up the costs of health care in New York but also drive out doctors, especially those practicing in high-risk specialties such as obstetrics. Anything that lowers those costs could also lower malpractice insurance rates and help to slow the outflow of medical talent.

The Associated Press Reports:

” New York courts specializing in the state’s 4,000 medical malpractice cases filed each year have begun expanding following the success of a Bronx judge in settling cases early.

The approach, shown to cut court backlogs and save money, has been extended to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, with some Erie County judges getting trained.

‘It was proving to be a cost savings to hospitals and directly impacting the indemnity insurance of doctors,’ New York Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau said.

Starting Dec. 1, Pfau will become coordinating judge of the court system’s medical malpractice segment. The pilot program is using a $3 million federal grant to train more judges in medical issues. Pfau herself will take cases in Brooklyn, where she is an acting state Supreme Court justice in the commercial division. She said it would be good to make the program citywide and makes sense to extend it to Long Island.

Bronx Justice Douglas McKeon, who began focusing on malpractice cases 15 years ago, said he has helped settle more than 1,000 since, with 12 to 15 cases now on the calendar monthly for intense discussions. Once the city’s Health and Hospitals Corp., which runs 11 public hospitals, created its own claims and law department in 2006 and explored settling cases sooner instead of later, the program “really took off,” with a 95 percent settlement rate for the corporation’s cases, he said.

Corporation deputy counsel Suzanne Blundi said they essentially revamped their whole commitment to patient safety, developing systems to improve care, manage claims and decrease payouts, which dropped from $196 million in 2003 to about $130 million last year.”

Read More from the Wall Street Journal

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