Judges Negotiate Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

In New York courts, which face a swarm of liability lawsuits, medically trained judges and attorneys work together to reduce the money and time spent on such cases.

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New York doctors pay some of the nation's highest medical liability premiums, and in 2009 received the highest number of claims filed against them, according to American Medical News. So it's natural that the state is expanding one strategy to reduce the resources spent on medical malpractice lawsuits. Judge-directed negotiation, which New York Judge Douglas E. McKeon set into motion in his Bronx court in 2002, saves hospitals money and resolves cases years earlier by having judges, attorneys, doctors and plantiffs take an hour to talk about cases in hopes of negotiating a settlement. Each judge in the program receives medical education and each court has the expertise of a registered nurse.  Tackling medical malpractice suits this way takes about nine months, compared to the three years it used to with conventional court methods, McKeon told amednews. Nearly all of the program's more than 1,000 cases have ended in settlement, which usually results in lower payouts from the hospital. Since 2003, the New York City Health and Hospital's Corp. has seen its medical liability payouts shrink by $60 million over the course of seven years. The negotiation program expanded to Brooklyn and Manhattan courts and hospitals last year and is expanding upstate to Buffalo this month.

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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