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Glens Falls Post Star: Medical Premiums Hurt By Lawsuits

medicalToday, the Glens Falls Post Star published a letter written by LRANY’s Scott W. Hobson in response to a recent piece by Dr. Sean Dow calling for medical malpractice reform (Malpractice reform will help us all 8.4.14).

An excerpt:

“Editor:

In his recent commentary, “Malpractice reform will help us all” on Aug. 5, Dr. Dow elucidated the problems plaguing our medical liability system as only one with first-hand experience could.

In our notoriously litigious country, New York bears the dubious distinction of being the worst of the worst. According to the most recent data, New York’s per capita medical malpractice payouts are the highest in the nation by an astounding margin — more than three times the national average, and almost double that of the next highest state. Our state now accounts for 20 percent of all payouts in the nation.”

Read Full Letter

The Buffalo News, Letter: Medical Liability Reform Will Ease Doctor Shortage

doctorToday,  The Buffalo News published a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Executive Director, Thomas Stebbins, which targets New York’s medical liability crisis as a key factor in the looming doctor shortage our state is facing.

An Excerpt:

“Kudos to The News for reporting on the doctor shortage in upstate and Western New York. Unfortunately, the article cited “experts” saying that the reason we are facing a doctor shortage is that upstate New York lacks “amenities” and has “brutal winter weather.”

As upstaters, we know that this area is a wonderful area to live, with plenty of amenities that cannot be found anywhere else.

The real reason that doctors are not choosing upstate New York is the astronomical cost of lawsuits and medical liability insurance. New York’s medical liability payouts are the highest in the nation – more than three times the national average.”

Read Full Letter

The Journal News, Letter to the Editor: Medical Liability Change Aids Lawyers

MedicalToday, The Journal News shared a letter tot the editor written by LRANY’s Thomas B. Stebbins which highlights a hidden subsidy for medical liability insurance buried in the recently released NYS budget.

An Excerpt:

“Buried in the recent New York state budget is a $127 million subsidy for medical liability insurance. Why is this? Our medical liability payouts are the highest in the nation by a truly mind-blowing margin — in 2012, New York accounted for fully 20 percent of all payouts. Per capita, our payouts are more than three times as high as the national average. New York taxpayers must subsidize insurance rates just to keep doctors from leaving the state.

New York has the best doctors in the world and we are willing to pay a bit more to retain them. But this subsidy is not really for the doctors, it is for the trial lawyers — they take advantage of our plaintiff-friendly legal system to file lawsuits in droves, then use the proceeds to pay Albany politicians to block meaningful reforms.”

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Judicial Hellholes 2013/2014 – New York City Ranked #3 Worst in Nation

Today, the American Tort Reform Foundation released their annual ‘Judicial Hellholes’ report.  It comes as no surprise that New York City was ranked the third worst ‘hellhole’ in the nation citing its unfair civil courts, following California and Lousiana.  Jumping up from number four last year, New York City’s legal climate is only getting worse.  The report names biased asbestos courts, hospital closings, conflict of interest and ethics issues among lawmakers, and the antiquated ‘Scaffold Law’ as contributing factors to NYC’s ranking.

The report states that Speaker Sheldon Silver, who happens to work for the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg which specializes in asbestos litigation, is pressuring asbestos litigation judges to consolidate cases, enabling plaintiff’s lawyers to bundle high-verdict cases with lower dollar ones.  These consolidated cases produce an average verdict of $29.8 million for the plaintiff, according to the report, compared to $3.2 million for individual cases.

LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, is quoted on hospital closings – “In New York, 19 hospitals have closed since 2000, leaving several neighborhoods underserved.” Meritless lawsuits are a big reason for the closures, he added, as “astronomical medical liability costs are affecting access to healthcare,” hurting “those who need it most.”

The continued struggle to implement common sense reform to the New-York-only scaffold law is highlighted in the report.  Noting insurance companies’ unwillingness to write policies in New York and contractors seeing 500% increases in insurance rates in the last few years despite impeccable safety records.

On a positive note, the report shared that the tort liability and number slip-and-falls cases filed were down from last year.

See Full Report Here

LRANY Video Series: Medical Apologies

Medical Apology Laws MapThis week, to continue the LRANY video series, we bring to you a video on the medical apologies. Under current law, statements of apology or regret made by a health care provider can be used in court against the provider as evidence of wrongdoing.Consequently, doctors and hospitals are unable to apologize or express sympathy to injured patients because of the liability risk. Currently, 36 states (see map) have enacted similar “apology laws.”

By enacting common sense legislation (S.2533 (Hannon)/A.4071 (Galef) Liability protection for statements of regret or apology), our state would reduce medical malpractice litigation, reduce court costs and improve provider-patient relationships.

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http://youtu.be/ELsFviDWEHg

City & State Issue Spotlight: Law and Lawsuits

By: Kate Hobday

city & state

This week, the legislative newspaper City & State focused nearly the entire issue on law and lawsuits. One was article entitled Better Late Than Never (page 18), and we at the Lawsuit Reform Alliance couldn’t agree more. The newspaper focused on several issues central to LRANY’s mission, including capping non-economic damage payouts, the Daubert standard, and the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, and included interviews with legislators, lawyers and LRANY’s Executive Director, Tom Stebbins. The Lawsuit Reform Alliance was also identified as a “key player” in the fight.

The newspaper highlighted several of the problems that have made New York a perennial “Judicial Hellhole.” New York State accounted for twenty-one percent of the $3.6 billion in payouts made to plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits in 2012, making it the highest ranking state in the country for medical malpractice lawsuits. Medical malpractice laws in New York are archaic, which leads to abuse and accounts for the high rate of payouts, which were over $763 million last year alone.

New York is one of fifteen states that have no limit on awards paid for “emotional” damages to plaintiffs. This leads to an increase in the instances of medical malpractice lawsuits, as well as the amounts that are paid out. Governor Cuomo attempted to address this issue in his 2011 budget by proposing a cap on “emotional” damages in the amount of $250 thousand but the proposal was defeated by the powerful trial lawyer lobby.

As reported by City & State, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance is also advocating for the Daubert standard [See Video] to be adopted in New York State, in place of the current Frye standard. The Daubert standard grants the judge the power to determine whether or not evidence is scientifically valid as well as requiring that expert witnesses prove that their evidence is based upon scientific methods, rather than junk science. Tom Stebbins, the Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance noted that the under the current standard, costly settlements often result because defendants do not know if the “expert” witness testifying against them has actual qualifications and that their testimony on there is based scientific facts.

Legislation has been introduced in New York State which seeks to lengthen the window of opportunity for a victim to sue. State law currently holds that the period during which a victim can sue a doctor starts at the time that the medical error occurred. The proposed legislation would extend that period of time by starting it on the date that the victim discovers that there is a problem. While well-intentioned, this change would lead to lawsuits being filed many years, or even decades after an incident, dramatically increasing the cost of providing healthcare and worsening our medical liability crisis.

While premiums in other states across the country have been decreasing in past few years, New York’s premiums rose by almost five percent. This is a direct result of our archaic medical liability laws, which encourage abuse and create astronomical costs. The Lawsuit Reform Alliance will continue to be a “key player” in the fight for lawsuit reform, as there is a clear need for it in New York, and it is better late than never.

Times Ledger: Lawsuits Drive Up Healthcare Costs

MedicalThe Times Leger recently published a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Executive Director, Thomas B. Stebbins regarding New York’s current medical liability crisis.

An excerpt:

” One of the highlights of city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s campaign for mayor was his arrest at a protest against the closure of another city hospital. De Blasio’s primary solution was and continues to be to throw money at the problem, but unless we address the spiraling costs of lawsuits, New York hospitals will continue to close.

Due to lawsuits, medical liability insurance in New York costs more than anywhere else in the United States — double that of the next highest state, California. Despite these outrageous costs, we as taxpayers are forced to subsidize our broken medical liability insurance system to the tune of $150 million a year.”

Read Full Letter

Queens Chronicle: Medical Tort Reform Now

doctorThe Queens Chronicle recently published a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Executive Director, Thomas B. Stebbins regarding New York’s current medical liability crisis.

An excerpt:

“One of the highlights of Bill de Blasio’s campaign for mayor was his arrest at a protest against the closure of another city hospital. Mr. de Blasio’s primary solution was, and continues to be, to throw money at the problem, but unless we address the spiraling costs of lawsuits, New York hospitals will continue to close.

Due to lawsuits, medical liability insurance in New York costs more than anywhere else in the United States — double that of the next highest state, California. Despite these outrageous costs, we as taxpayers are forced to subsidize our broken medical liability insurance system — to the tune of $150 million a year.”

Read Full Letter

LRANY Video Series: New York’s Medical Liability Crisis

This week, to continue the LRANY video series, we bring to you a video on the medical liability crisis our state is currently facing.

Last year alone New Yorkers paid $127 million to subsidize medical-malpractice insurance.  Even with this subsidy, doctors across the state still pay astronomically high amounts for insurance, some as high as $200,000 annually; the highest in the nation by an astounding margin.  With doctors in New York being among the most highly skilled and safest in the nation, the high cost is not indicative of the performance of our medical professionals but is a direct reflection of our broken legal system.

Our current system allows for a continuous flow lawsuit abuse often offering mind boggling damages for “pain-and-suffering”.  These high costs are forcing facilities out of business and pushing our doctors out of New York to other states where measures have been put in place to help alleviate these cost.  Since Since 2000, 19 hospitals throughout the NYC alone have been forced to close their doors, impacting many New Yorkers’ access to health care.

Our state needs to pass true reforms to decrease the cost of medical liability insurance, increase the access to healthcare and stop closures of hospitals.

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http://youtu.be/qZ7dhUiFBSs

New York Daily News: Doctoring the Rockaways

hôpital4This week, the New York Daily News posted a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Phoebe Stonbely in response to the devastating trend of hospitals closing across the state.

An Excerpt:

“News that the Rockaway Peninsula may lose its last hospital (“A very grim prognosis,” Aug. 14) echoes the financial troubles faced by hospitals across the state. One factor common in many closures is the substantial cost of medical liability insurance, largely driven by lawsuits”. 

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