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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Lawsuit Reform Group Releases White Paper on New York’s Medical Liability Crisis

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2014
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
518.512.5265
pstonbely@lrany.org

Lawsuit Reform Group Releases White Paper on New York’s Medical Liability Crisis

(Albany, NY) – The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), a nonprofit advocacy group focused on legal reform, released a white paper today entitled “Condition Critical: New York’s Medical Liability Crisis.” The paper highlights the impact of New York’s legal climate on medical liability premiums and the corresponding effect on the medical profession.

The paper notes that New York has the highest per capita medical liability payouts in the nation and now accounts for 20% of all payouts in the country with only 6% of the population. Correspondingly, medical liability insurance premiums for New York’s physicians and hospitals are among the highest in the nation, exceeding $330,000 annually for some specialties. The paper claims that both the total cost of defending medical liability lawsuits and insurance premiums have increased significantly.

The paper also analyzed publicly available financial information for New York’s medical liability insurers and found they are operating at the lowest profit margin in the nation. The paper further notes that two of the three largest carriers remain technically insolvent.

Lastly, the paper highlights New York’s ongoing physician shortage, which is currently estimated to be over 1,000. New York ranks 28th in the nation for retention of physicians from undergraduate medical education, and 75% of hospitals have reported difficulty recruiting physicians due to shortages.

LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins stressed the role of New York’s lawsuit system as a fundamental driver of the crisis. “New York’s medical liability system is buckling under the weight of litigation, much of it either weak on the merits or outright frivolous. Meanwhile, the entrenched personal injury lawyer lobby spends millions every year to block reforms to our regressive and archaic civil justice system, which ultimately hurts healthcare providers, patients, and taxpayers.”

The white paper recommends the enactment of comprehensive liability reform to create safeguards against abusive litigation. Said Stebbins, “For years physicians, healthcare providers, insurers, and tort reform advocates have warned of a coming medical liability crisis. Now that the crisis is here, New York must take action.”

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The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

PDF Press Release                  PDF White Paper

LRANY Video Series: E-Discovery Reform

This week on the LRANY Video Series, Tom Stebbins brings you a video on E-Discovery Reform.

Discovery of electronically stored information (ESI), such as emails and electronic documents, has become increasingly common and important in civil litigation. However, because of the daunting volume of ESI, discovery can be extremely costly and time consuming, and the tactic of making broad discovery requests is increasingly being used to pressure defendants to settle even the least meritorious cases.

LRANY supports legislation which would clarify requirements to preserve electronically stored information and implement checks on abusive electronic discovery tactics.

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LRANY Video Series: Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting (TiPAC)

This week on the LRANY Video Series, Tom Stebbins brings you a video on transparency in provate attorney contracting, also known as TiPAC. In New York, the Attorney General is not required to make public the information regarding contracting outside counsel, which could lead to abuse.

The past decade has witnessed dramatic increase in the use of private contingency fee attorneys on behalf of the state. While State use of private sector legal services makes sense in some instances, there is currently little transparency regarding the use of private sector attorneys by the State, creating a potential for abuse and conflict of interest.

LRANY supports legislation which would create transparency, limit contingency fees, and codify recent case law requirements to ensure that the State remains in control of litigation when it hires contingency fee counsel.

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LRANY Video Series: Trial Lawyer Political Influence

This week, to continue the LRANY Video Series, LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, brings you a video on the powerful influence of trial lawyers in our state.

See report which reviews their political spending here. 

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LRANY-Supported “Potted Plant” Trial Conduct Bill Advances in Assembly

Pot Plant objectionThis week, the Assembly Judiciary committee unanimously voted to report A.9077 to the floor. This legislation, which LRANY supports, would amend the law to allow the counsel for a non-party witness to raise objections to improper questioning. The current law does not allow such objections to be raised, as a result of the Supreme Court Appellate Division’s ruling in Thompson v. Mather (2010). Read more about the bill here.

The Senate unanimously passed this legislation on May 7th, and it is expected to pass the full Assembly this session. Read LRANY’s memorandum of support here.

Senate Passes “Potted Plant” Trial Examination Conduct Bill

isolated green branchToday the Senate passed S.5077 (Bonacic), supported by LRANY, which would clarify the rules relating to the conduct of an examination before trial. The bill does not yet have a sponsor in the assembly.

The measure, introduced upon the recommendation of the Chief Administrative Judge, would allow the counsel for a non-party witness to object to the form and relevance of questioning. The current law does not allow such objections to be raised, following the Appellate Division’s ruling in Thompson v. Mather (2010). In Thompson, arrangements had been made for videotaped depositions – for use at trial – of plaintiff’s treating physicians. During the course of those depositions, the attorney for a witness objected to the form and relevance of certain questions. The Appellate Division ultimately ruled that “counsel for a non-party witness does not have a right to object during or otherwise to participate in a pretrial deposition.” In the words of the NYS Supreme Court, this ruling reduced the non-party witness’s attorney to a “potted plant.”

The court’s ruling in Thompson has given rise to a troubling practice. Plaintiffs’ lawyers now commonly depose non-party witnesses before they are named in the lawsuit, allowing them to question the witness without the witness’ lawyer being able to raise objections to prejudicial or improper questions. If the deposition yields statements that are favorable to the plaintiff, the witness will be added as a party to the suit, and their statements used as evidence in court. As the Chief Administrative Judge notes in the bill’s sponsor memo, the current law, “…leaves a non-party witness essentially unprotected during a deposition. A lay witness may not, for example, know when to decline to answer a question because it invades a privilege, or is plainly improper and would, if answered, cause significant prejudice to any person.”

LRANY supports S.5077 because it would restore an important measure of balance to civil litigation by protecting non-party witnesses from improper questioning.

Read LRANY’s memorandum in support here

For Immediate Release: Lawyer Lobbying Spending in NY at an All Time High

Governor Cuomo called them “the single most powerful political force in Albany”

  Report reveals trial lawyers’ influence in Albany politics 

(ALBANY, NY):  A report released today by the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York has found that trial lawyer special interest groups spent $1.15 million on lobbyists and lobbying expenses in 2013, a 37% increase since 2010 and the highest ever on record.

The report, entitled “Power of Attorney: Exploring the Influence of the Trial Bar in New York State Politics” draws on publically available data to analyze the lobbying and political spending by trial lawyer special interest groups, law firms, and individual attorneys in the most recent reporting period.

In addition to record high lobbying spending, the report found that trial lawyers contributed a total of $1.28 million to state candidates, including $500,085 from New York’s two trial lawyer special interest groups, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and the New York Academy of Trial Lawyers, and $780,608 from individual lawyers and law firms. Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, said “In sheer dollar terms, it is impossible to understate just how powerful the Trial Lawyer special interests are. They are the biggest lobby nobody’s ever heard of.”

Read Full Release

Read Report Here

LRANY Statement on Cuomo Calling Trial Lawyers “Most Powerful” in Albany

See response below from LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, in response to Governor Cuomo stating that , “the trial lawyers are the single most powerful political force in Albany,” in a Crain’s piece released today (http://bit.ly/1nvLNrZ).

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Governor Cuomo claims that “you can’t change” the Scaffold Law, but little change comes to those who do not have the courage to try. Mr. Cuomo failed to include Scaffold Law reform in his budget, even after the law was shown to cost taxpayers $785m per year, while making worksites more dangerous. Governor Cuomo failed to champion Scaffold Law reform even after the NYC School Construction Authority and New York School Boards Association estimated the law costs schools $300 million annually.

Governor Cuomo says, “the trial lawyers are the single most powerful political force in Albany.” With his comment, Mr. Cuomo has demonstrated that the greatest political force in Albany is certainly not him, or our duly elected representatives, but the big money interests of trial lawyers. Governor Cuomo cannot claim New York is “open for business” while he continues to let trial lawyers bar the door.

Tom Stebbins
Executive Director
Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

LRANY Video Series: Funding Political Campaigns with the ‘Martin Act’

This week, to continue the LRANY video series, we bring you a video on funding political campaigns with recovery’s from the ‘Martin Act’.  The Martin Act, established in Albany in 1921, grants the Attorney General broad powers to investigate and pursue alleged wrongdoing associated with the purchase and sale of securities.  It is one of the toughest securities laws in the nation as these powers of the AG are so extraordinary that this act does not require any elements of proof.

Recent actions in our legislature look to using funds retrieved from prosecutions under the ‘Martin Act’ to fund political campaigns.  This dangerous regulation would creates a clear conflict of interest incentivizing filing lawsuits to collect election funds.

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LRANY Video Series: Video Memo Introduction

leg med memoThis week, to continue the LRANY video series, we bring to you an introduction to a new portion of the series Video Memo’s hosted by LRANY’s Scott Hobson.  In New York, over 10,000 bills are filed each session and we are tracking hundreds of them on a daily basis.  The purpose of this portion on the series is to keep you informed about what information we are tracking on the legislative front highlighting the most important bills.

 

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http://youtu.be/T_6T5co4wuo