Tag Archives: New Hampshire

New Hampshire Jury Disregards Malpractice Panel for First Time

For the first time, a New Hampshire jury has disregarded a medical malpractice screening panel’s unanimous finding of no fault, ruling in favor of the plaintiff against a cardiologist sued for thrice failing to diagnose a lesion on his 36-year-old patient’s heart. The patient died of heart disease shortly after his last visit to the cardiologist, and an autopsy showed that the lesion had likely been there for months prior to his seeing the cardiologist. The patient’s estate sued the cardiologist, alleging the proper tests were never performed. New Hampshire law has required all medical liability claims to first be vetted by a medical malpractice screening panel since 2005. At least 16 states have similar laws requiring medical liability lawsuits to first be screened by a malpractice panel.

When New Hampshire instituted medical liability lawsuit screening panels, lawmakers praised the new system as an effective way to reduce the number of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits in the state’s overburdened court system, deflate the overall costs associated with malpractice trials and contain the rising cost of medical professional liability insurance in the state. Critics of the malpractice screening panel argue that the process only increases the costs and overall time required for litigation of medical injuries. They say that the screening panel process also places significant administrative burdens and costs on state court systems.

Comprised of a retired judge, a lawyer and a healthcare professional, the three-person panel reviews all medical malpractice lawsuits prior to their going to trial, making a judgment as to the merit of the case. The judgment is non-binding, and plaintiffs can still seek a trial independent of the panel’s finding, but the process is intended to promote out-of-court settlements. Unanimous panel findings, as in the case of the deceased 36-year-old, are presented to the jury if the lawsuit proceeds to trial. Until now, the jury has always sided with the panel’s unanimous decisions.

The New Hampshire jury awarded the 36-year-old plaintiff’s estate $1.5 million.

New Hampshire Legislature Overrides Veto of Medical Malpractice Reform

Yesterday, the New Hampshire Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. John Lynch to pass a first-of-its-kind, early offer medical malpractice reform. MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com reported on the veto earlier this week.

Under the new bill, New Hampshire physicians and hospitals will be able to make an “early offer” of compensation to victims of unintended medical outcomes. If the harmed patient accepts the early offer, there is no need to go to court and the victim is compensated. If the harmed patient refuses the early offer and takes the physician to court, yet receives a jury verdict equal to or less than the early offer, the harmed patient will have to compensate the defendant physician for his or her legal costs.

In his veto, Gov. Lynch stated that the bill had good intentions, but did not balance the interests of patients and healthcare workers. He thought the early offer bill was a good start and hoped the legislature would revisit and improve upon it. The veto override makes that scenario unlikely. Gov. Lynch noted that the early offer bill favors physicians and hospitals and would not compensate victims for lost earning capacity or pain and suffering.

The New Hampshire Medical Society supported the early offer bill, considering it an effective method of lowering the cost of the state’s medical malpractice insurance. Two of the state’s medical malpractice insurance companies opposed the Early Offer bill, warning that it could actually cause medical malpractice insurance premiums increase.

New Hampshire Gov. Vetoes Early Offer Medical Malpractice Bill

On June 20, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch vetoed a bill that would have established an “Early Offer” program for dealing with medical malpractice claims. New Hampshire would have been the first state to establish such a program.

Under the vetoed Early Offer bill, after filing a claim of medical malpractice against a doctor or hospital, the doctor or hospital would be able to make an early cash settlement offer rather than go to jury trial. The injured patient would meet with an advisor on whether or not to continue with jury trial and have five days to decide whether or not to take the early offer. If the early offer is turned down by the plaintiff in favor of a jury trial, and the jury returns a verdict that is less than the early cash settlement offer, the plaintiff would have to pay the legal fees of the healthcare professional or hospital he or she sued in court.

The New Hampshire Medical Society championed this Early Offer bill as a tool to help reduce the high cost of New Hampshire’s medical malpractice insurance. Oddly, and tellingly, two of the state’s insurers of medical professional liability opposed the Early Offer bill, warning that it could actually cause medical malpractice insurance premiums increase.

Gov. Lynch did say the he believed the Early Offer bill had good intentions, and he hopes that the New Hampshire legislature continues to work on legislation that would help reduce the cost of medical malpractice insurance for the state’s healthcare workers.

New Hampshire Early Offer Program Looks to Reduce Medical Malpractice Costs

On March 15, the New Hampshire Senate unveiled Senate Bill 406, an early offer program for the state’s medical liability lawsuits. If enacted, the bill promises to have a deflating effect on the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors and the overall cost of medical malpractice litigation in the state. The early offers program would also greatly decrease the amount of time from claim to resolution..

The way the proposed early offer legislation would work is that after being informed of a claim, the accused healthcare worker would have 90 days to offer a settlement. The settlement would be calculated based on medical costs and lost wages that were accrued due to the unintended consequence. It would also limit non-economic, pain-and-suffering damages to $1,700 for minor harm and $117,500 for grave harm in these medical malpractice claims. Participation in this program would be voluntary for patients.

On its surface, the voluntary participation aspect of the early offer program would be its Achilles heel. After all, if the harmed patient has access to a competent lawyer, there is little chance they would participate in a system that caps their potential compensation from the get-go. The bill’s author realized this when authoring the legislation.

According to Jeb Bradley, the bill’s main sponsor, injured patients would be compensated in a more timely fashion (resolving a malpractice claim under the current system takes up to four years to complete), and SB 406 also requires that cases that opt out of the early offer model would be held to a higher, “clear and convincing evidence” standard when litigating their claim in the court system.

The higher standard for proving medical negligence in the New Hampshire court system has riled the trial attorneys in the state. The trial lawyers lobby has been backing an amendment that would strip the requirement of a higher burden of proof for harmed patients who pursue legal action after participating in the early offer process.

SB 406 has the support of every healthcare workers’ association in the state, and if the bill should pass, New Hampshire would be the first state to institute an early offer program.

NH Pharmacists To Give More Vaccinations

Side Note: New Hampshire is the latest state to join the trend of allowing pharmacists to give more than just flu vaccinations. The new vaccines recently added by the state are the pneumococcal vaccine and the shingles vaccine. The pharmacists who administer them are required to undergo special immunization training and carry $1 million in New Hampshire liability insurance. But, New Hampshire physicians are concerned, and rightly so.

Many physicians are worried that patients will be asking for shots that they may not need and that a conversation with their primary physician would be prudent prior to seeking a vaccine. In addition, pharmacists will not have (and don’t have) access to the patient’s medical record. And, with the newest vaccines added, a more nuanced evaluation of the patient and his or her history would be needed to determine if the vaccine is appropriate for the patient. Finally, many physicians are worried that the medical record will be incomplete if vaccines are given by pharmacists –even if pharmacists are required to give notification as they are in New Hampshire. Quite simply, patients may not indicate that they have a primary care physician or a medical record that it needs to be recorded in. We are worried that this then would open up physicians to further med mal liability. For example, what if a physician administers a vaccine that was previously given, but not in the medical record? Read on for additional concerns.

MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com may be able to lower your New Hampshire med mal rates. To see if we can help you today, complete our quote request –it’s easy and fast.

NH allows pharmacists to give more vaccinations
By: NORMA LOVE
From: BusinessWeek.com
Posted: September 4, 2011

syringesNew Hampshire is joining a growing national trend in allowing pharmacists to give more vaccinations than annual flu shots — but doctors oppose the changes in what appears to be a turf war over a profitable aspect of medical care.

A new state law lets trained pharmacists give vaccinations for a bacterial form of pneumonia that can be deadly and for shingles, a painful reappearance of latent chicken pox virus that affects the nerve roots and can produce a blistering rash.

Here is the original article.

Woman Suffering from Bacterial Meningitis Sues New Hampshire Hospital

Side note: A New Hampshire woman is suing St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, and two doctors, for 5 million dollars. The medical malpractice lawsuit claims that the doctors failed to properly diagnose her bacterial meningitis leading to her permanent disability. Jane Revells, the plaintiff was a healthy, normal woman who worked as a kitchen designer when she visited the emergency room at St. Joseph Hospital on Jan. 10, 2008 complaining of nausea, vomiting, head-ache and fever. She was diagnosed and treated for an ear infection and sent on her way. Over the next few weeks her condition worsened and the doctors at St. Joseph continued to misdiagnose her illness. Five days later Revells returned to the hospital and a CT scan reveled that she was suffering from bacterial meningitis; by that time the damage had already been done. Due to the infection she suffered from several strokes that have left her permanently disabled leading to the medical malpractice lawsuit.

By ANDREW WOLFE
Staff Writer
CONCORD

Jane Revells, formerly of Milford and now of Jakin, Ga., filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court against the hospital and Drs. Peter Row and Eric Hoffman.

The hospital has yet to respond to the suit, and no one there could be reached for comment.

http://Read the full story over at Nashua Telegraph

Ongoing Fight in New Hampshire Threatens Medical Malpractice Fund

side note: An ongoing fight in New Hampshire is threatening a state-created medical malpractice insurance fund. Set up in 1975 as a Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), the fund is designed to provide affordable physician liability insurance to doctors in high-risk specialties. Currently, the state government is wrangling with policyholders over the $110 million surplus in the fund. So far, the New Hampshire State Supreme Court has sided with physician-policyholders, but New Hampshire Governor John Lynch is still claiming that taxpayers have right to the money, which could help balance the state’s budget.

This is an important case for doctors and physicians to follow. It could set precedent not only in New Hampshire, but also in other states, on whether states are allowed to access medical liability insurance funds that are run through the state.

Holly Ramer
Associated Press Writer
via WBZ CBS 38

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) ? The tug-of-war over surplus money in a state-created malpractice insurance fund intensified Monday, with the insurance commissioner seeking to change the fund’s rules and the policyholders heading back to court.

(more…)

N.H. budget can't use malpractice fund

side note: A judge ruled that New Hampshire cannot take from the $110 million surplus in the fund that underwrites the state’s medical malpractice insurance to balance its budget. The fund’s board will now decide if the surplus will be returned to policyholders in the form of a dividend.

By Norma Love
Associated Press
seacoastonline.com

CONCORD — A judge has rejected the state’s claim on a $110 million surplus in a fund that underwrites malpractice insurance.

The state counted on $65 million of the money to help balance the budget in the fiscal year that just ended and hoped to use the other $45 million toward spending in the current two-year budget.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen McGuire froze the fund last month until its ownership was determined. On Wednesday, she said the fund’s board will decide if the surplus is returned to policyholders as dividends.

“The state did not financially contribute to the creation of (the fund) and has not contributed any funds since that time,” she said.

Gov. John Lynch said the state will appeal.

“These surplus funds belong to the citizens of New Hampshire, who created the Joint Underwriting Authority and gave it tax-exempt status,” he said in a statement.

The state set up the fund, the Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association, in 1975 to fill a gap in the availability of malpractice insurance. It says the policyholders got what they paid for: coverage against malpractice claims.

The attorney general’s office advised lawmakers last winter any surplus could rightfully be used to pay for health care.

Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia and other policyholders said the money is theirs and the state has no right to it. About half the 900 policyholders are doctors. The rest are nurses, physicians’ assistants, home care providers, nursing homes, a hospital group and other medical providers.

Lynch, a Democrat, and the Democratically controlled Legislature have insisted the state created the fund to provide access to malpractice insurance at a time many doctors could not buy it. The intent was to make the insurance available without making it so cheap the private market suffered.

State GOP Chairman John H. Sununu said he wasn’t surprised at McGuire’s ruling.

“It’s not surprising that the court did the right thing and blocked Gov. Lynch’s attempted theft of the JUA surplus funds,” he said. “The court’s decision confirms that the Democrats’ budget is a real disaster for the state of New Hampshire.”

Read the rest over at Seacoastonline.com