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Top Lawyer to Medicaid Redesign Team: End “Litigation Lottery”

By–Scott Hobson

At the October 27th meeting of the Medicaid Redesign Team, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the head of New York City’s Law Department, offered a list of twelve reforms to fix New York’s medical malpractice system and reduce costs to the Medicaid program.

Mr. Cardozo has been the City’s top lawyer for nearly ten years. Prior to that, he served as president of the New York City Bar Association and was a partner at the law firm of Proskauer Rose.  To say that he is familiar with the problems of our civil justice system would be a considerable understatement.

Tort reform, Cardozo emphasized, is necessary to reign in the rising cost of medical malpractice, citing several deficiencies in the system that incentivized the filing of non-meritorious suits. Last year, New York City paid out over half a billion dollars in lawsuits, of which $143 million went to medical malpractice cases. Statewide, medical liability insurance costs are the highest in the Nation, nearly double that of the next highest state.

One such reform put forward was a limitation on the subjective non-economic “pain and suffering” component of a jury award. These awards, according to Cardozo, “are highly subjective, and often bear no relation to reality.” A limitation on non-economic awards would reduce the number of non-meritorious lawsuits, while preserving a victim’s ability to collect an unlimited amount for current and future expenses such as medical care, lost wages, and adaptive technology. Twenty-two states, including California, Florida, and Texas have enacted similar limits, and the results have been dramatic. In Texas, the enactment of a $250,000 limitation on non-economic damages resulted in $1.4 billion in increased revenues to the state.  In California, medical liability insurance losses are lower than New York by a factor of four.

In addition to other reforms, Cardozo advocated for the statewide expansion of the Judge Directed Negotiation Program currently in place in New York City, as well as requiring a certificate of merit signed by a physician to proceed with a lawsuit. Both these reforms, he emphasized, would reduce the number of non-meritorious lawsuits, reducing costs and allowing those with legitimate claims to receive compensation sooner. Another suggested reform would require plaintiffs to disclose the identity of their witnesses early on in the process, ending the practice of “trial by ambush.” “Litigation,” he said, “is not meant to be a game – it is meant to be a presentation of the facts.”

Cardozo went on to emphasize that the system, as a whole, needed to be reformed. “I suggest that the goals of fairly compensating victims are not being met.” We couldn’t agree more.

New York – Medical liability “crisis state”

The chairman of the American Medical Association (AMA) recently wrote a letter to the editor of a story published in the New York Times. The letter thanked the writer for stressing the need for tort reform and explained its benefits and widespread support:

“To the Editor:

The American Medical Association appreciates that your Oct. 7 editorial “Not Their Job” acknowledged the need for tort reform and the current medical liability system’s role in driving up health costs for patients.

The A.M.A. and many others strongly believe that medical liability reform provides a solid solution for reducing the federal deficit and improving a civil justice system that has failed injured patients.”  Read more.

 

The current medical liability system in New York is completely unsustainable.  Medical liability premiums are at an all time high and continue to rise, this threatens New Yorker’s access to care and forces doctors out of our state.  New York is in such desperate need of reform that it is listed by the AMA as a ” Crisis State”.

LRANY is working on numerous priorities to reverse this medical liability crisis including:

-Capping non-economic damages

-Raising standards for medical expert witness testimony

-Creating specialized “healthcare courts”

These are just a few of the many priorities that LRANY is fighting for to fix our broken medical liability system.

Join the fight and make your voice heard!

New York woman files multi-million dollar suit against county and officials

Monica Pierce of Horsehead, NY is suing various parties in regards to a search of her home in 2008 which she states was illegal.  Pierce is suing the Horseheads village police, Officers Seth Zawko, Richard Skebey, Mark Fitzgerald and Sgt. Daniel M. West, and Maggie Campanella, a county Child Protective Services caseworker.  She has recently added the county of Chemung to this extensive list.

In 2008, Pierce’s home was searched by Horsehead police after her daughter, daughter’s father and daughter’s stepmother informed the police of marijuana activity happening in the home.  According to the police, Pierce gave them permission to search the house and actually led them to the bedroom.  Monica is claiming she gave no such permission.

After the search, Pierce was charged with unlawful dealing with a child which was later dropped.

Now she is stating that her constitutional rights were violated and is seeking $1 million from each defendant in addition to punitive damages, attorney fees and other amounts.

In an interview with the Star Gazette, Chemung County attorney, Bryan Maggs, called the case “ridiculous”.

Municipalities deal with frivolous cases such as this one far too often.  The cost of defending these cases alone is exorbitant, then there is the actual cost of judgment or settlement.  Municipalities are forced to either raise taxes or cut services to cover the cost.

SUNY Albany is currently conducting a study to uncover the true cost of lawsuits to municipalities.  This information has never before been so thoroughly documented, although the extreme costs are often talked about; such as the recent speech by city counsel Cardozo highlighting the $561 million that NYC alone paid out for lawsuits in 2011.

Stay tuned for more on this groundbreaking study.


Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo calls for tort reform

Yesterday, New York City Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo gave a speech to the Citizens Budget Commission calling for tort reform as a solution to regain the city’s economic stability.  The city paid out $561 million in tort related claims for 2011, an astronomically high number which could be drastically lowered by enacting various tort reforms.  Said Cardozo, ”The tort laws must be changed to even the playing field.”

In his speech, he highlighted two major reforms which he says would lower the city’s payouts by $100  million; implementing a cap on non-economic damages and reforming the joint and several liability rule in our state.

In the fiscal year 2011/2012 budget, Governor Cuomo proposed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Unfortunately, it was not adopted.  This reform would have eliminated skyrocketing “jackpot justice” awards, while still providing injured victims with full compensation for their medical expenses and lifetime care.  Million-dollar jury awards in cases against NYC come from the pockets of tax payers.  Cardozo explains that nearly half the states in the nation have limitations on pain and suffering awards.

The second reform that he spoke about was changes to the joint and several liability rule in New York.  Currently, in cases with multiple defendants, a defendant who is just 1% at fault can be forced to pay 100% or the judgment if the other defendant is unable to pay their share.  In motor vehicle cases, the less responsible defendant would also be responsible for paying the non-economic damages.  Cardozo gives an example of a case where New York City was forced to pay the full amount of a $5.25 million judgment, even though it was found to be only 23% responsible.

“I could continue for hours giving examples of pro- plaintiff, anti-defendant, particularly anti-government, tort laws. Yet persuading the New York legislature to enact any tort reforms, even if only limited to governmental entities, is a difficult task, to say the least, but it is essential to stop this raid on the public fisc.[sic]” – Cardozo.

LRANY applauds these efforts made by Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo to spread the message of the need for tort reform in our state.  Reforming our civil justice system and eliminating frivolous lawsuits could save the state millions and put money back into the pockets of taxpayers statewide.

NBC New York – Taxpayers Pick Up NYC’s $6B Lawsuits Bill

New York City doled out an astounding $6 billion in judgments and settlements in 10 years, some for bizarre claims of injury resulting from biting in a kindergarten classroom, tripping in a Lincoln Center parking lot, and slipping on bus steps, according to the New York Post.

Last year alone, the city shelled out $520.6 million in claims, according to a Post analysis of city comptroller records. Personal-injury claims accounted for 99 percent of the payouts for tort cases.

  Read more of this article from NBC New York which presents the clear case for lawsuit reform in our 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.