Recent Article Argues That Birth Injury Lawsuits Are Beneficial, While Tort Reforms May Be Harmful, to the Medical Profession

A recent article challenges the notion that big malpractice awards, for birth injury or otherwise, automatically cause problems for the medical profession. While the article focuses mainly on New York malpractice law, it is instructive for medical practitioners in every other state, including Maryland.

stethoscope-1-311196-m.jpgUnlike Maryland, New York does not have a cap on damages for pain and suffering, so if large malpractice awards were to have a significant negative impact anywhere, it would be there. Yet the author argues that large awards have not substantially impacted medical costs, and have actually had a positive effect on the state’s medical landscape. Meanwhile, tort reforms touted over the past 25 years have just increased litigation.

Regarding the argument that giant awards do not equal a sharp spike in costs, the author cites the recent case of a girl with cerebral palsy, Reilly v. St. Charles Hospital. The case considered whether the hospital and maternity nurse failed to properly monitor the pregnant woman and her fetus and then failed to take corrective action after the fetus was in distress. In the end, the jury awarded the girl’s family $130 million — the second-largest jury verdict in New York’s history. This naturally prompted cries that jury awards were out of control. However, the author noted that such lawsuits have barely had an effect on the cost of malpractice insurance — just a 6% increase in tort reform states and 13% in non-tort reform states. Furthermore, the amount might be justified for a girl considered to be a “prisoner in her own body” due to a severe brain injury caused by avoidable medical errors.

The author also argues that lawsuits like Reilly have resulted in much-needed reforms in areas of medical practice. For instance, after a wave of lawsuits in the 1970s and 1980s, anesthesiologists were forced to reexamine their practice and implement reforms, with the result being that deaths from anesthesia dropped from one in 6,000 to one in 200,000 within 10 years.

Meanwhile, there is evidence that tort reforms have just resulted in more doctors being sued. One of the reforms undertaken has been to lower the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit so that the amount of time for filing is often less than the amount of time given for property claims. With less time to investigate which doctors are at fault, more injured parties are filing complaints naming every doctor who could be even marginally responsible. While many of those names are eventually dismissed, the doctors must suffer from stress and shame in the meantime.

Maryland is one of 29 states that places limits on medical liability. At the same time, Maryland’s statute of limitations is longer lasting than New York’s statute, which is only 2.5 years for regular medical malpractice claims and 10 years for birth injury claims if the injured party is a minor. If you live in Maryland and want to file a birth injury claim, consult a Baltimore birth injury attorney as soon as possible.

Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt has more than 100 years of collective experience dealing with medical malpractice and birth injury cases. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the firm represents residents in Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you have a birth injury or other medical malpractice issue, contact us today for a free consultation.

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