The medical malpractice insurance industry has taken notice of a new trend showing an increase in jury trial court judgments in medical malpractice cases exceeding $10 million. What’s really gotten their attention is that many of these verdicts are coming out of jurisdictions with tort reform protections in place.
Medical inflation and jury verdicts
Medical malpractice insurance experts believe that one of the large reasons for increasing verdicts in health care liability claims is the impact of medical inflation.
In recent years, there have been several large $10 million plus verdicts in Texas medical malpractice cases. Based on the impact of tort reform, which imposes caps on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and mental anguish, the bulk of these jury awards come from medical expenses. Past medical expenses related to the medical negligence that were paid or that are still legally owed may be recovered without limitation.
The same is true for future medical expenses. In cases where plaintiffs are catastrophically injured and will require significant health care for the rest of their lives, we retain life care planners to provide details and costs on those future care needs. An economist or financial expert then does the number crunching for the jury.
Professional liability insurers also believe that there are larger jury verdicts when hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers cast blame on each other.
Typically, defendants try to circle the wagons early in litigation to protect each other. Defense attorneys will try to broker agreements with each other to make sure that one party is not critical of the co-defendant.
In many cases, this works. Sometimes, though, a defendant isn’t willing to toe the line and cover-up another party’s negligence. We are working on a case like this now, in fact. It involves a home health nursing company whose registered nurse placed a specialized type of gauze deep in the patient’s surgical wound.
The gauze was only supposed to be left in place for a day or two, but the nurse failed to remove it. Additionally, when this type of gauze is placed, the standard of care requires a registered nurse to leave a tail coming out of the wound so future health care workers or physicians will know it’s there.
The patient’s abdominal wound ended up healing over the gauze, causing a deep infection that was discovered two years later. The patient had to undergo another surgery to have it removed.
In this Texas medical malpractice lawsuit, the home health nursing defendant is trying to blame everyone under the sun for the fact that its own registered nurse left the gauze where it shouldn’t be. They’ve tried to blame the patient and her family. They’ve even pointed fingers at the surgeon who provided follow-up care.
The depositions in this case will be very interesting from the plaintiff’s perspective. We expect the surgeon to testify that the home health nurse did not inform them of the retained guaze as he should have and that, therefore, he wasn’t aware that it was there. The home health nursing agency will no doubt hire experts to try to cast blame on the surgeon.
We anticipate that the jury won’t like any of this finger-pointing. In that it’s a clear liability case, we think the blame game between the defendants will likely cause the jury to award a higher sum to our injured client.
Other factors influencing high awards
Insurance industry experts also believe that jurors are frustrated and fed up with the current status of the healthcare system in America. They believe that this causes jurors to be more willing to award large sums to victims of medical malpractice because it may send a warning message to doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that poor care won’t be tolerated.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor, hospital, physician, or medical care in Texas, you can increase your odds for getting favorable compensation by hiring a top-rated and rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer.