TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Oklahoma Targets Joint & Several Liability (Among Other Things)

Here's a pretty good overview, complete with anecdote and comeback, with nobody really citing Oklahoma-based numbers, but with an interesting survey of Oklahoma judges and a snippet from Texas.

The anecdote:

[An OB-GYN of retirement age] said she was forced to give up on her practice entirely because of rising medical malpractice insurance rates.

"I liked what I was doing, but when I found out my malpractice was going to be $50,000 a year, I decided I just couldn't do that,'' Davis said. "I couldn't just slow down like the doctors used to do, work and see their patients but not feel like they had to work all day long.

"If it hadn't been for the malpractice insurance, I'd still be practicing in my office right now.''

The comeback:

"My opinion ... is that it is a very good fundraising tool,'' said Brad West, a Shawnee attorney and president of the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association. "It's one of those things that (lawmakers) can say to their political base that motivates them to give money.

"But it's not that simple.''

The interesting survey:

Oklahoma judges apparently agree. According to a survey conducted by state Sen. Charlie Laster, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, more than 68 percent of judges said they consider less than 5 percent of cases to be frivolous. Almost 90 percent opposed a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages.

(An odd way to summarize the results, incidentally.  Two thirds of judges think that less than five percent of the cases are frivolous.  What do the other third think?  I can't find the actual study, though I found this PowerPoint (see HTML version here).)

Finally, the snippet from Texas:

While lawsuit reform proponents say hard caps on non-economic damages will result in lower medical malpractice premiums for doctors and greater accessibility to health care, that isn't what happened in Texas, said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, an Austin-based consumer advocacy and research group.

When Texas lawmakers approved a $250,000 cap for medical malpractice cases in 2003, there was a decrease in the number of lawsuits filed, but not much change in the cost of premiums, Winslow said.

"What we were told in 2003 is that doctors could expect significant rate reductions of somehwere between 15 and 18 percent,'' Winslow said.'' Rates across the industry have dropped by no more than 5 percent, and more than half of doctors have seen no reduction at all.

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Does anyone really think the insurance companies are going to lower premiums or that this is why doctors are going broke? Keep taking away power from the jury and put it in the hands of the legislature and corporations and you will reget it.


Posted by: Dwayne Clark | Feb 4, 2006 10:29:02 AM

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