Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report Highlights Medical Malpractice Developments in Four States

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Summaries of developments related to medical malpractice in Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia appear below.

  • Mississippi: The Mississippi Supreme Court during its March-April term will consider a request from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the state clarify rules concerning the statute of limitations on malpractice lawsuits in the state, the AP/Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports. Specifically, a panel of the appeals court is seeking clarification on how the statute of limitations applies in cases “where the alleged negligence is either the administration of a drug by a physician or the physician’s failure to disclose about the risks of a drug, and experts disagree as to whether the drug caused the plaintiff’s injuries” (Elliott, AP/Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 3/5).
  • New York: About 2,000 members of the Medical Society of the State of New York on Tuesday attended discussions at the state Capitol addressing the state’s malpractice insurance system, Long Island Newsday reports. The state Insurance Department in July 2007 approved a 14% increase in malpractice premiums. Speakers at the rally said physicians would leave the state if malpractice premium rates continue to rise (Madore, Long Island Newsday, 3/5). Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) said a task force including his own staffers, lawmakers, consumer representatives and physicians has been meeting for months, and he hopes to announce a proposal this month similar to a plan last year that cut workers’ compensation insurance rates by 20% (Odata/Crowley, Albany Times Union, 3/5).
  • Pennsylvania: Physicians, lawyers and a hospital in Montgomery County, Pa., on Tuesday launched a pilot program that aims to mediate conflicts between patients and doctors or the hospital, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The joint effort of the county bar association, medical society and Abington Memorial Hospital aims to resolve problems more quickly and keep more malpractice disputes out of court. It is unknown whether the program will reduce costs. The state Supreme Court three years ago encouraged counties to look for alternatives to traditional litigation, in response to doctors threatening to leave the state because of rising malpractice insurance premiums. However, few counties have acted on the request (Burling, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/4).
  • Virginia: The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday ruled that physicians working for charitable foundations are not immune from malpractice lawsuits, the Virginian-Pilot reports. The cases in question involved the University of Virginia Health Services Foundation, whose attorneys argued that because physicians were working for a not-for-profit organization, they should not be allowed to be sued for malpractice. The court in its decision wrote that “HSF operates like a profitable commercial business with extensive revenue and assets”; therefore, it is “not immune from tort liability under the doctrine of charitable immunity.” According to Steven Emmert, an appellate lawyer who testified for the patients, if the court had ruled in favor of the foundation, it could have potentially meant “no more medical malpractice litigation in Virginia.” He said such a ruling would prompt physicians to work under a nominally not-for-profit structure (Young, Virginian-Pilot, 3/1).

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