An Indiana jury has issued a large verdict in a medical malpractice case last month, an unusual thing in a state where such judgments are rare. The jury awarded the woman $5 million after miscommunication about X-rays led her to lose a portion of her stomach. Due to caps on damages, the verdict will shrink to $1.25 million. Only about 1/3 or that state’s medical malpractice cases result in verdicts for plaintiffs .
Before they can sue, that state’s residents must bring their cases before a three-member medical review board, which can take a year or longer. Even if the board decides the case has merit, a trial can take years, and health-care providers are unlikely to settle because the state’s cap on damages protects them from the risk of massive judgments. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.
In medical malpractice cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland, we don’t have medical review boards. But we do have tort reform. Though there are many components, the main elements are the requirement of Certificates of Qualified Expert (also called a Certificate of Merit) and medical report before a case can make it to court, and a cap on pain, suffering and emotional distress. These two things have kept verdicts down in Maryland and, as a result, kept medical malpractice insurance premiums down for doctors and hospitals.
Navigating the Certificate and Report requirement can be very tricky, which is why Maryland medical malpractice plaintiffs need a very experienced lawyer to pursue their case. There has been a lot of litigation in Maryland over the last few years regarding Certificates and Reports in medical malpractice cases. This has resulted in many cases being thrown out. In fact, when I teach medical malpractice to law students every year, I now spend a couple of classes talking about Certificates and Reports, whereas several years ago I only spent about 20 minutes talking about it.