NY Pilot Program Focuses on Early Settlement of Medical Malpractice Cases

"Even though people are not forced into it," says the director of the Center for Medical Consumers, "I have no idea how coercive or not the pitch is." By "pitch," director Arthur Levin is referring to early settlement talks in medical malpractice cases, which in New York have been shown to reduce overall payouts made to injured patients.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one such case involved an apparent emergency room error, where a woman hit by a car may have suffered subsequent brain injury caused by a lack of proper monitoring while she was in the hospital.

The case was settled for a fraction of what the injured patient asked for.

These "intense" settlement discussions are part of a pilot program in New York City-area courthouses that handle medical malpractice cases. Judge Ann Pfau is heading up the program.

The focus is early settlement, prompting the president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association to say, "There shouldn't be any pressure on the plaintiffs to settle. It should be voluntary."

The question is whether it's as voluntary as it's made out to be - especially given the so-called benefits of the program - which, in the brain injury case mentioned above, consisted of a fraction of the initial amount asked for by the injured patient, along with no fault admitted by the hospital.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "More NY courts to focus on medical malpractice," 11/11/11

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