Sunday, August 9, 2009

A note from a reader

I got several notes from readers who are lawyers. Here is a representative sample of one email.

.....Perhaps the facts and conclusions that you made in your article are true on a national basis. I have my opinions about that but I honestly do not know the truth. However, I do know the truth concerning the facts regarding what you wrote in your article concerning the medical malpractice system in NC. With all due respect, you could not be more wrong.

I have been a trial lawyer in this state for 31 years. I am not a TV lawyer and I do not advertise my services. All I do is personal injury cases, workers compensation cases and an occasional medical malpractice case. The reason I say occasional is because succeeding with a medical malpractice case is nearly impossible in light of the reforms this state made a number of years ago. The reforms are numerous, but the key one concerns what an expert can testify to regarding the applicable standard of care. It makes it nearly impossible to find an expert who is allowed to testify in our courts because of the foundation that must be laid concerning their knowledge of the standard of care say at [town in NC], where I practice. Of course, it goes without saying that a plaintiff's lawyer must spend 50-100 thousand dollars on experts to ultimately finish a case. Who can handle many cases such as this? There are other reforms that make nearly all attorneys decline a medical malpractice case. In fact, I constantly have clients tell me that they cannot even get a lawyer to listen to them, much less take their case.

The net result of the reforms is that medical malpractice cases have declined as have settlements in this state. I am not handling such a case for the first time in my career. I am on the Board of Trustees at [a large medical organization redacted by me to protect this person's identify] and I likewise have seen a decline in medical malpractice cases. In fact, it is not a major concern at all for us. Why any doctor in NC is really worried about being sued in NC surprises me. Frankly, I do not think the conclusions you make the article are true in NC.

As I noted to you, I handle WC cases. I see doctors constantly pursuing tests, pain management and other medical care that obviously does not need to be done. Clearly their motivation is money. In other words they get paid for all the care that is unnecessary. I understand that I am not a medical doctor. However, when you do the same thing for over 30 years, one learns a lot about the health care system and what motivates doctors.

In my opinion, reducing non economic damages to $250,000 would have zero affect in NC. In fact, it would make no difference to me because the hurdles are already there to prevent any success in helping a person wronged. I know you mean well with your suggestions. However, it also tells me that you do not have an understanding how the medical malpractice system works in NC.


I will write a bit more tomorrow about the issue of the proposed $250k cap on non economic damages I proposed and what I do and don't think it would accomplish. I hope it came through that I DON'T expect that it will save the system much money.

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