NY Tries an Innovative Approach to Medical Malpractice Cases

Funded by a $3 million federal grant, some medical malpractice cases are moving along faster than previous ones. Known as “judge-directed negotiation”, these medical malpractice cases are moving quickly to settlement negotations spurred on by a judge. The effort is supported by the Obama Administration as a equitable way to curb malpractice costs while at the same time continuing to provide ordinary citizens access to the civil justice system.
According to a front page article in the NY Times, advocates believe it’s working and hope to see it adopted in other parts of the country.
“We would hope that other states across the country would look at this as a model they might want to replicate,” said James B. Battles, the official overseeing the grant at the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. By some estimates, the program could save more than $1 billion annually if state courts adopted it nationally, Dr. Battles said. The city’s public hospitals say the program, along with other changes, like sharply increased attention to safety, has helped save $66 million in malpractice costs a year. During the recent session in Justice McKeon’s chambers, the lawyers seemed more relaxed than they would be with patients watching. After he agreed to take $1.5 million for a child with cerebral palsy, a plaintiffs’ lawyer, Louis G. Solimano, seemed disappointed. “I didn’t get a grand slam,” he said.
Perhaps not, but he was able to avoid the emotional and fiscal expense of years of litigation.