Illinois Civil Justice League: Bad Doctors OR Bad Lawyers?

May 08, 2005

Bad Doctors OR Bad Lawyers?

I was inspired by T. Evan Schaefer's recent post, "When Doctors Leave Town, Where Do They Go?" In his post, Evan recounts a statistic spun by the Madison County trial lawyers that only 11 lawsuits have gone to a jury since 1996, and only four of those were found for the plaintiff.

According to the Edwardsville Intelligencer article within which this statistic was reported, the four lawsuits resulted in verdicts of $25,000, $75,000, $450,000, and $1.7 million, meaning combined damages (economic and non-economic) were below the recent Shadid-standard for caps in three of four cases.

Apparently this is a meaningful statistic in the medical liability reform debate. (Note my sarcasm).

It seems to be forwarded again and again by trial lawyers in this area. They say insurance companies must charge the doctors too much, especially if Madison County juries have awared less than $2.5 million in the past eight years. If only the issue was that easy to explain.

Just for fun, let's put the statistic in real context within the debate. FACT: There have only been four winning plaintiffs in Madison County in eight years. ICJL did a study looking at the number of medical defendants in Madison County from 2000-2003, so let's assume that ALL four of the winning plaintiffs were successful in that time period (trying to be fair to the trial lawyers with my assumptions).

So, out of 181 medical malpractice suits filed in Madison County from 2000-2003, the plaintiff and his/her trial lawyer(s) were successful - at most - 2.2 percent of the time. Which, by the standards put forth by the trial lawyers, 97.8 percent of the medical malpractice cases filed in Madison County result in no verdict for the plaintiff, meaning the trial lawyer lost the case.

Conclusion: Trial lawyers fail in 97.8 percent of the claims they file against doctors in Madison County. Doesn't sound like we have very good legal skill here in this county...? And, the trial lawyers say they already turn down 90 percent of the potential cases they could take, because of lack of merit...?

If the doctors failed 97.8 percent of the time for their patients, then we really would have a problem with our healthcare. But unfortunately, it's lawyers missing with so many cases.

In the process, more than 460 defendants were named in the 181 lawsuits. No wonder so many doctors are rallying to change the way medical liability is assessed in Illinois. Needless defense costs were paid, needless time away from patients was spent, needless anxiety over meritlous claims was expended, needless headaches and heartaches for families (on both sides) was extolled. Meanwhile, the adequate resources collected from doctors to compensate victims when negligence actually occurred was wasted defending against claims headed for dismissal.

It's starting to sound like there's been a lot of pain and suffering extracted against our doctors, considering the high rate of failure by plaintiffs lawyers in medical malpractice cases in Madison County. Perhaps someone should call a lawyer.


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