Malpractice Update-Peninsula Hospital Closing

The news that the Peninsula Hospital in Far Rockaway is closing is all too familiar.

New York is facing an unprecedented medical liability crisis and the cost of insurance continues to outpace all other measures. New Yorkers pay more than $130 million annually in taxes to subsidize the cost of malpractice insurance, yet the premiums paid by doctors and hospitals remains astronomically high when compared to other states. Doctors in some parts of New York pay upwards of $200,000 per year in premiums and some health care providers cannot get coverage at all.  This increases our cost of health care and our ability to access it.

Governor Cuomo included a cap on non-economic damages in his 2011 budget, which would have helped control costs and begin to lessen the burden on health care providers and taxpayers but the cap did not make it through the legislature.

We must pressure the legislature to pass the cap before there are no hospitals left.

View the full Queens Tribune letter to the editor,  (third letter down) written by LRANY’s executive director, Tom Stebbins.

New York Post-Thanks for the doctors, New York

 

Texas attorney Joseph M. Nixon’s piece in the New York Post this week tells the story of two New York doctors who fled New York’s horrendous legal climate for doctor-friendly Texas, where medical liability rates are much lower.  New York taxpayers paid to educate and train these doctors, but New York law forced them to practice somewhere else.

Since 2003, medical liability rates in New York have increased more than 60 percent; in Texas, they’ve dropped by 54 percent.  According to the Texas Medical Board records,  since September 2003, when Texas voters approved the Proposition 12 medical-liability reforms 1,271 New York physicians have begun practicing in Texas.

New York needs these medical-liability reforms before ALL of our doctors leave the state!

 

 

Minivan-drownings suit could cost taxpayers plenty

We as New Yorkers were devastated when we heard the tragic news that LaShanda Armstrong killed herself and three of her four children on April 12 when she drove her minivan into the Hudson River.

But New Yorkers should be outraged at the recent news that LaShanda’s estranged boyfriend, Jean Pierre, is suing both the City of Newburgh and Orange County for $40 million each. Ms. Armstrong’s death and the death of her children were a horrific tragedy and a devastating loss, but they should not be an opportunity for a lawsuit.

 

Once again, strong support for LRANY can be seen in the comments section.

Read more of this op-ed written by our Executive Director Tom Stebbins in the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Pay for Lawsuits Before They’ve Been Filed?

The proposal by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to set up a lawsuit slush fund paid for by fees from gas drillers shows how backward New York’s legal system really is.  To ask businesses to pay for lawsuits that do not exist is to pour blood in the water and invite trial attorneys to file lawsuits against the fund.

Mr. DiNapoli asserts that preventing accidents is the “first priority,” but this fund will not make drill sites safer, indeed, if businesses have to pay for damages whether or not an accident has occurred, the fund may have the opposite effect and once again stand in the way of economic development.

Letter to the Editor, Comments Show Broad Support for LRANY

Last week, LRANY’s Executive Director Tom Stebbins’ letter to the editor was picked up in papers across New York, from Westchester to Buffalo.  This week, two responses have run and both show broad support for LRANY’s position.  One, from the president of the Trial Lawyers Association, is not surprisingly negative, but the comment section reveals that most people favor the reforms presented by our Executive Director.  The other from Carole Schubert of Owego strongly endorses LRANY’s position.

This widespread support for fairness and common sense is a positive sign for New York State and will continue to grow with your help!

‘Lawsuit lottery’ must be limited

The recent Washington County home explosion which killed five is being investigated but not just by the proper authorities but also by a local law firm looking, on behalf of the victims’ families, for someone to sue.  Surely, if there was negligence or wrongdoing in this instance, someone should be held accountable the victims compensation but when a law firm is doing the investigation, can we really trust that their findings will be that objective?

Click here to read a letter to the editor in the Albany Times Union written by our Executive Director, Tom Stebbins.

New York’s litigation-friendly laws hurt business

Most everyone would agree that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been uniquely successful in getting his agenda passed through a Legislature that was completely dysfunctional not too long ago.

So, what’s next? Reforming New York’s antiquated and stifling legal system has wide support and would provide millions in economic development at no cost to the state. By enacting lawsuit reform the government will stimulate the economy and save money, since municipalities are often the target of lawsuit abuse.

Read more of this op-ed written by our Executive Director Tom Stebbins here.

Injustice the Film — Tonight at 10:00pm

Tonight at 10:0pm EDT on the Reelz channel, don’t miss “Injustice” a film about greed and corruption in America’s lawsuit industry.

Visit the website for more information.

LRANY Supports Fair Compensation for Justices

An article published yesterday in The New York Times showcases the fact that for the first time in New York History, judges are actually leaving the bench, not to retire, but to return to practicing law.  A recent study showed nearly 1 in 10 judges leaving annually.

Judges in New York are required to be lawyers and in most cases have practiced law in New York for at least 10 years prior to appointment.  Our judges have strong opportunities in the private sector and they need to be fairly compensated for the work that they perform on behalf of the state.  The judges in our system are talented and experienced judges whose compensation must be kept fair and current to ensure their retention.

LRANY supports the review of judicial salaries and supports fair compensation for judges dedicated service to New York.

Read LRANY’s Statement.

 

LRANY Celebrates the Defeat of Multiple Trial Lawyer-Backed Bills and the Introduction of Pro-Reform Legislation

On June 24th the Senate and Assembly adjourned at the call of the Majority Leader and Speaker, effectively signaling the end of the 2011 legislative session. Throughout the year, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York actively engaged members of the legislature to fight for meaningful lawsuit reform in our state. While the State’s legislature is notoriously lawyer-friendly, there were several notable positive outcomes this session. Governor Cuomo’s ethics reform bill would increase accountability and shine a light on lawyer-legislators’ potential conflicts of interest. Additionally, LRANY was responsible for introducing legislation which would protect landowners from lawsuits by trespassers. As expected, we saw a which LRANY fought aggressively. Most notably, LRANY blocked a devastating bill which would have granted private attorneys the full powers of the Attorney General under the Martin Act, and halted a package of bills which would vastly increase medical malpractice lawsuits.

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance will continue work tirelessly to make lawsuit reform a reality in New York, and provide a counterbalance to the heavily funded lawyer lobby. The following is an account of this session’s achievements.

Ethics Reform (S.5679 / A.8301)

Passed Senate and Assembly

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance strongly supported the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011, which passed both the Senate and Assembly on June 13th. This legislation would require lawyer-legislators to disclose their outside income and names of clients who do business with the state. Currently, forty-five legislators report earning outside income practicing law. This measure will shed light on conflicts of interest currently hidden from public view.  Many thanks to our supporters and allies for helping get this important measure passed.

Landowner Protection (S.5091/A.7590)

Referred to Senate Judiciary and Assembly Judiciary

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance secured the introduction of legislation which would prevent a flagrant trespasser from suing a landowner and recovering damages. Senator Jim Seward (R, Oneonta) and Assemblyman William Magee (D, Oneida) introduced this legislation in early May.  Currently, New York and California are the only states in the nation in which a landowner can be held liable for injuries sustained by a trespasser, making this an important issue for every landowner in New York. The bill protects landowners from the unwarranted expansion of liability suggested in the Restatement (Third) of Torts, and this codification of the common law ‘no duty to trespassers’ rule is an important step in protecting landowners. By targeting judiciary committee members and majority party legislators, LRANY and our supporters recently secured co-sponsorship by Senator Patricia Ritchie (R, Watertown).

Expert Witness Disclosure

Currently, timing requirements for disclosure of expert witnesses are set by court rule in each judicial district.  In many districts, parties are not required to disclose expert witnesses until as late as 30 days prior to trial.  This imbalance leads to widespread “trial by ambush”, giving the plaintiff an unjust advantage over the defendant. LRANY has drafted legislation which would equalize expert witness disclosure rules and require the plaintiff to disclose expert witnesses at the filing of the note of issue, leveling the playing field in civil suits. Meetings with potential sponsors are ongoing.

Blocked Martin Act Expansion Bill (S.4497/A6060A)

Halted in Senate Consumer Protection and Assembly Codes

Assembly Bill 6060A and its Senate counterpart S.4497, sought to expand the broad powers of the “Martin Act” to private attorneys acting on behalf of pension funds of 100 or more members. Enacted in 1921, the Martin Act was designed to allow the Attorney General to file civil actions for violations. Under this legislation, private attorneys would be granted the powers of the Attorney General and not be required to prove damages, reliance, or intent to defraud. A mere typographical error could give rise to a suit under this proposed bill. This legislation would allow private attorneys to essentially force public companies to settle even the most frivolous suit, devastating the economy and costing thousands of jobs. Throughout the legislative session, LRANY aggressively targeted committee members in the Senate and Assembly, as well as the leadership in both houses, and as a result the bill was removed from committee agenda…twice. In the most recent case, the chairman was unwilling to bring the bill to a vote due to an overwhelming lack of support.  After informational meetings with LRANY staff and our allies, six sponsoring legislators removed their names from this dangerous bill, sending a strong message to their peers in the capitol – New Yorkers will not stand for another trial lawyer payday bill.

Halted Attorney Fee Hike (S.2541)

Halted in Senate Judiciary Committee

Under current New York Law, the percentage of an award which may be taken by an attorney in a medical malpractice is limited by a sliding scale. As the size of the award increases, the percentage a lawyer may take decreases. This ensures that victims get the compensation they deserve, and helps prevent attorneys from seeking excessively high awards. This proposed legislation, which would remove the current fee schedule, amounts to a multi-million dollar payday to attorneys across the state. It is estimated that this legislation would increase malpractice premiums by up to 40%, or $640 million, further exacerbating New York’s medical liability crisis. The Lawsuit Reform Alliance engaged legislators on both sides of the aisle on this critical issue, ensuring that it was never brought to a vote in committee.

Medical Malpractice Package (S.3296/A694; S.5242/A.4852; S.3766/A.625)

S.3296/A.694 Halted in Senate Rules; Passed Assembly

S.5242/A.4852 Halted in Senate Judiciary; Halted in Assembly Codes

S.3766/A.625 Halted in Senate Rules; Laid aside on Assembly Floor

 

A package of three bills would have devastated New York’s health care system and increased medical liability premiums statewide by as much as 35%, or $560 million. The Lawsuit Reform Alliance, along with members of the medical community, engaged legislators in both houses to ensure that none of these bills became law.

 

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance has actively addressed many priority issues this year. As session comes to a close, we remain committed to the fight for common sense legal reforms.  New York’s legal system is consistently rated among the worst in the nation, with tort losses exceeding $16 billion annually.  As one of the most litigious states in the most litigious country in the world, the road to reform in New York is long, but the rewards will be great.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to all our members, supporters, and affiliates. The strength of our organization is measured by the support of those who are committed to the cause. Thank you for making this year’s legislative session a success.