Legal Brief: Lawsuits Harm the Practice of Medicine, Doctors in Four States Say; Court Says It is Okay Not to Warn Strangers that You Have a Flowerbed; 96 of 159 Georgia Counties Now Lack Obstetric Care

Lawsuits Harm the Practice of Medicine, Doctors in Four States Say

A new survey conducted by the American Tort Reform Association and has examined the opinions of physicians practicing in four states most often singled out by lefal reform advocates as in need of reform: Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia.

According to the sponsoring organizations, a majority of the physicians surveyed in these states say the legal system under which they practice has harmed their ability to practuce medicine and has increased the cost of health care services.

Specifically, of the doctors surveyed:

* Three-quarters reported that lawsuits affect the price of health care “a lot.”

* Ninety percent of the survyed doctors said they were personally concerned about the affect of ligitation on their ability to practice medicine.

* One-third of the doctors surveyed said have read or heard about patients who were put at risk because of advertising by lawyers.

* Two-thirds of the surveyed physicians reported believing that inflammatory advertising by trial lawyers has caused patients to fail to seek appropriate medical care.

Tort Du Jour: Court Says It is Okay Not to Warn Strangers that You Have a Flowerbed

A passenger not wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle travelling 75-miles-per-hour in a 25-mph zone in Las Vegas was seriously injured when the vehicle in which she was riding struck a wall and elevated flowerbed on private residential property when the driver of the vehicle failed to turn either left or right in a “T” intersection.

The passenger sued the homeowner, DaimlerChrysler (which settled), and the contractor who built the elevated flowerbed. She claimed the homeowner was “negligent in building a flowerbed behind a wall located on his backyard” and negligent for “failing to warn her” about the flowerbed. The contractor, she claimed, should have warned the homeowner “about the hazard of building a solid structure adjacent to the wall.”

The case was thrown out of district court, yet was appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which conconcurred that the case had no merit.

Source: Order of Affirmance, Supreme Court of Nevada, Paola Najgrodski v. Volpe and Pardee Construction, November 4, 2003; Common Good website

Testimony: 96 of 159 Georgia Counties Now Lack Obstetric Care

Our medical system is out of control. Costs are rising so rapidly and unpredictably that no business or individual can sensibly plan for the future. Physicians are limiting services and insurance costs are skyrocketing. Neither government programs nor private insurance carriers seem to be able to regain control. One segment of the system most clearly out of control is that which deals with bad medical outcomes. The impact of our inability to control this area is disproportionately greater than the actual number of cases involved and greatly affects cost and the entire health care system. One of the most alarming results has been the decrease in availability of physicians’ services to the general public. In Georgia alone, for example, 10 years ago there were 1,500 physicians delivering babies. There are now 650. There is no obstetric care in 96 of Georgia’s 159 counties.

Source: Brenda C. Fitzgerald, Albert S. Hanser and David H. Hovey, “Major Reforms Needed in the Medical Liability Tort System,” Georgia Public Policy Foundation, November 1, 2003

 Original articles in this edition of Legal Briefs may be reprinted provided source is credited.

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