Joanne Doroshow, over at The Pop Tort (cross-posted at Huffington Post) with a great post on how extending the statutes of limitations in medical malpractice case might actually reduce the number of malpractice lawsuits against doctors. The thinking runs like this: lots of times patients know that they’ve been victims of medical malpractice but they have no idea initially precisely who was at fault. Was it the anesthetist? Was it the surgeon? The patient doesn’t know; the patient simply woke up with an injury that shouldn’t have occurred. If the medical malpractice lawyer believes it was the surgeon and sues only the surgeon, but subsequently discovers evidence that it was the anesthetist the patient might be in trouble because the statute of limitations on his claims might have run in the meantime. A lawyer in this situation might nevertheless be able to add the anesthetist to the law the lawsuit under a “relation back” theory, but that’s a dicey proposition that ultimately is up to the judge to decide. So medical malpractice lawyers face the necessity of naming more doctors initially in a lawsuit, driving up defense costs. If medical malpractice statutes of limitation were lengthened, we might paradoxically reduce the costs of such lawsuits by giving patients greater rights to sue.
Eric Turkewitz on how hospitals’ critical analysis privilege leads to more medical malpractice litigation
Professor Bernabe on the mystery of how the Supreme Court reconciles this week’s decision in Williamson v. Mazda (holding that a lawsuit claiming Mazda should’ve installed shoulder belts for a rear passenger seat was not forbidden by federal regulation that allowed manufacturers to use lap belts) with Geier v. Honda (holding that a state regulation mandating passenger side airbags was preempted by a federal regulation that did not require them).
Abnormal Use on the spike in jury verdicts last year and speculating on the connection to the stalled economy. Last year, ten of the largest fifty jury verdicts were in product defect cases. This theory certainly backs up the work of Alex Tabarrok who has found that the highest jury verdicts occur in jurisdictions with great disparities in wealth and an elected judiciary.