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February 24, 2011

Tort Reform And The Imagined Health Care Crisis



This blog entry comes courtesy of the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and was published in the February 24, 2011 edition of the Belleville News Democrat:

It is once again time to set the record straight with your editorial board. There was never a health care crisis in this state and there were no "jackpot justice conditions" that caused doctors to flee Illinois.

Your editorial board and the president of the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) have chosen to ignore important facts when it comes to medical care access in this state. Over the years, we have consistently increased the number of physicians in our state. That's right. The American Medical Association data reflects increases for each of the last 45 years. Clearly not a climate of doctors leaving Illinois or retiring early.

Funny how it used to be, for years, ISMS would falsely claim doctors were fleeing our state and that we already had a shortage of doctors because of fabricated "jackpot justice conditions." As the data has failed to support that claim, the dialogue now shifts to an attempt to create a "future crisis". In fact, a recent survey - funded in part by ISMS - clearly demonstrated oversaturation of physicians in the largest populated area of our state. That's correct - more than enough doctors in the greater Chicagoland area.

Dr. Steven Malkin, the president of ISMS, recently tried to tie a potential doctor shortage in Hillsboro, Illinois to lawsuits. He suggested lawsuits were preventing doctors from setting up practice in the Hillsboro area. What are the facts? In 2010 there was only 1 case of physician negligence filed in Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois, and that's about the number each year over the last nine years according to the Court Clerk's office. Hardly, a "toxic" malpractice lawsuit environment. Additionally, the number of medical negligence cases filed in Illinois, overall, has steadily declined over the last seven years. Filings are down almost 40% since 2003.

We do agree that a portion of the 2005 law, which was struck down last year, needs to be reinstated. The insurance reforms contained in the law forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency on rate-setting and payouts, that spurred competition and motivated more companies to enter the marketplace. These measures resulted in a reduction of malpractice premiums for doctors.

Health care in Illinois doesn't improve by taking away the constitutional rights of those injured by medical negligence. It improves by providing better care, and holding those who are careless and their insurance companies accountable. True reform of the insurance industry and a reduction in medical errors is the only way to ensure a thriving healthcare system that works for every citizen of this state.

August 24, 2010

Medicare Liens and Medical Malpractice Litigation



The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) overhauled Medicare's perspective on payment for medical care related to "never events" including a list of delineated hospital acquired conditions. Hospitals will no longer receive reimbursement for conditions that are (a) high cost or high volume or both, (b) result in the assignment of a case to a DRG that has a higher payment when present as a secondary diagnosis, and (c) could reasonably have been prevented through the application of evidence-based guidelines. The ten categories for hospital acquired conditions are: Foreign Object Retained After Surgery,.Air Embolism,,Blood Incompatibility, Stage III and IV Pressure Ulcers, Falls and Trauma including, Fractures, Dislocations, Intracranial Injuries, Crushing Injuries, Burns and Electric Shock, Manifestations of Poor Glycemic Control including, Diabetic Ketoacidosis, Nonketotic Hyperosmolar Coma, Hypoglycemic Coma, Secondary Diabetes with Ketoacidosis and Secondary Diabetes with Hyperosmolarity, Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection, Vascular Catheter-Associated Infection, Surgical Site Infection Following Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) - Mediastinitis, Bariatric Surgery, Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass, Gastroenterostomy, Laparoscopic Gastric Restrictive Surgery, Orthopedic Procedures and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)/Pulmonary Embolism (PE).

While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have prohibited hospitals from recovering payment for the treatment of secondary conditions acquired in the hospital, practically, these charges are often submitted and paid by Medicare long before and attorney becomes involved and makes a claim for medical malpractice. Careful examination of the supporting documentation Medicare provides at the time they require reimbursement often reveals that benefits were paid for hospital acquired events.

We pay close attention to each and every aspect of our clients cases and work very hard to insure that they receive the maximum recovery. This includes the work we do to check and negotiate all of our clients liens, including Medicare liens.

June 3, 2010

Goldberg & Goldberg Secures A $1,000,000 Settlement In Rockford Medical Malpractice Case



Goldberg & Goldberg partner, Ian R. Alexander, secured a $1,000,000.00 settlement in the case of Newburg v. Swedish American Hospital, et al 02 L 263 which is pending in Winnebago County, Rockford, Illinois. In 2001, the day before Thanksgiving, Margaret Hoffman went to Swedish American Hospital complaining of chest and back pain. Doctors in the Emergency Room were able to determine that she was not having a heart attack. Her cardiologist ordered the hospital to perform a CT Scan of Ms. Hoffman's chest in order to rule out an aortic aneurysm as the cause of her pain. The hospital did not carry out the order for a CT scan until 48 hours later when Ms. Hoffman experienced a drop in her hemoglobin which indicated that the aneurysm had ruptured. Unfortuntely this intervention came to late and Ms. Hoffman, a 61 year old clerk at Zion Development Corporation, passed away on the operating table.

Ms. Hofman was survived by her two adult children. Records indicate that this settlement was one of the largest recoveries in recent history in Winnebago County for a wrongful death case where the survivors were adult children, and one of the few cases to settle in Rockford for in excess of $1,000,000.

We are very proud of the hard work that we did for Ms. Hoffman's family. From the beginning all of the defendants claimed that Ms. Hoffman's death was a result of her own poor health and had nothing to do with the numerous mistakes that they made in caring for her while she was a patient at the hospital over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2001.

February 5, 2010

Illinois Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Patient On Medical Malpractice Reform



The Illinois Supreme Court in a 4-2 decision struck down limits on damages awards in medical malpractice cases with its decision in Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital on thursday. The court held that the legislation was unconstitutional. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Fitzgeral held, in part: "[W]e necessarily consider...the legislature's goal in enacting the statue-responding to a health-care crisis. Our separation of powers analysis, however, does not stop there. The crux of our analysis is whether the statue unduly infringes upon the inherent power of the judiciary. Here, the legislature's attempt to limit...damages in medical malpractice actions runs afoul of the separation of powers clause."

This is a major victory for patients and consumers in Illinois. The legislature has tried, on three seperate occasions, to enact caps on damages in medical malpractice cases. For years lobbiests for the insurance industry have argued that medical malpractice awards have contributed to the high cost of health care in Illinois despite the fact that insurace payouts on these claims have remained level for the past two decades.

All citizens of Illinois should have a right to ask a jury of their peers for redress when they have been victimized by negligence, regardless of the profession of the guilty party. To see a copy of the Supreme Courts landmark opinion look here.

December 11, 2009

Actor James Woods Settles Medical Malpractice Case And Gets An Apology



Hollywood actor James Woods setttled a medical malpractice case brought on behalf of his brother who died while he was a patient in the Emergency Room of Kent Hospital in Kent County, Rhode. The Providence Journal Online Edition is reporting that while the financial terms of the settlement are confidential, the hospital took the unusual step of apologizing to the Woods family for their mistake.

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Woods said the impetus for the settlement came with a phone call from hospital president Sandra Coletta. In that call, he said he heard something he'd never heard from Kent Hospital before, someone saying she was sorry for his family's loss.

It has been widely reported that apologizing for medical mistakes is the number one way a doctor or hospital can help curtail a medical malpractice claim. Often times patients and their families are looking for closure after the loss of a loved one. An apology is often the piece of the grief puzzle that helps wounds heal and allows people to move on after a tragedy.

For his part, Woods said the conclusion would give him, if not closure, some piece of mind about the meaning of his brother's death. "It makes it possible for me to go to my brother's grave and ask if I've done the right thing," he said.

December 7, 2009

Don't Get Sick On Christamas: Medical Malpractice Over The Holidays



Conventional wisdom says don't get sick over the holidays. Hospitals are understaffed, doctors are distracted and the overall quality of medical care is diminished at even the finest of institutions. Over and over again we see cases at otherwise fine Chicago area hospitals that have one thing in common. The negligence occurs over the Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's holidays. Unfortunately, we can't choose when we get sick and people certaintly need medical help over the holidays, so keep the following in mind:

Become an advocate for yourself. Hospitals run on skeleton shift over any major holiday. Do not simply assume that Doctors and Nurses are thinking about you and your condition, they are not. they are thinking about the holidays like everyone else. Remind them of critical information and ask questions. If you are not satisfied with a response make sure they explain it to you again in plain english until you understand.

Go up the Chain of Command. if you are unhappy with the care you are receiving or if you are felling neglected, ask to speak with a supervisor, the head of the department or the vice-president of nursing. Doctors are accountable to the chairman of their service as well. Demand someone pay you the proper amount of attention.

Do not accept substandard or substitute care just because it is a holiday weekend. Hospitals are required to maintain full operating staffs and are required to provide services like Ct scans and MRIs over a holiday weekend. If these things are unavailable due to a holiday staffing shortage then the hospital is required to transfer you to a facility that is operational. Do not accept the excuse that a service cannot be provided because it is a holiday weekend.

Follow this tips and advice and hopefully you holiday hospital stays will be short and uneventful.

November 12, 2009

Medical Malpractice And Tort Reform: Enough Already



Joanne Doroshow wrote an excellent article in the Monday, November 9, 2009 edition of The Huffington Post called Medical Malpractice Tort Reform - We Are Already Suffering And Don't Need More. She points out that unless you are currently living under a rock you have heard the term "tort reform" but, sadly, probably don't know what it really means.

In Illinois we have tort reform as it relates to medical malpractice. Starting in 1985, and every ten years thereafter, the state legislature has based some sort of restriction on the publics right to sue for personal injury. In the late 1990s the Illinois Supreme Court struck down these restrictions, overruling the legislature, and finding them to be unconstitutional. The legislature, bowing to pressure from the insurance industry, tried again in 2005 and passed limits on jury awards as they relate to doctors and hospitals only. That legislation is currently being reviewed for constitutionality by the Supreme Court and we expect a ruling on the issue in the near future.

The term tort reform implies that its results would be beneficial to everyone. Sadly, this is not the case. Tort reform in Illinois will only make it harder for average hard working men and women to seek redress for the harms caused to them as victims of negligence. The tort reform movement was started by and is funded by insurance companies. The same companies that have the most to gain financially by limiting jury awards.

The benefits of our current tort system are far reaching and relatively unsung. Innovations in product and medical safety, health care innovations and auto safety are some of the by products of our jury system. What motivates insurance companies? Money and the bottom line. Are they interested in protecting the little guy? Not at the expense of profits.

September 18, 2009

Illinois Law Protects Brain Injured Children's Right To File Lawsuits



In Illinois there is a stautue of limitations on medical malpractice claims which generally prohibits filing of a lawsuit two years from the date of malpractice or two years after the malpractice is discoverd. The statute of repose sets an outside tail date for filing such claims after four years have elapsed from the time of the initial malpractice. There are certain exceptions to this general statute of limitiations. At Goldberg & Goldberg we are proud of our work to help protect the rights of brain injured children. As an example of such work we are proud to say that due to our tireless efforts to fight for and protect brain injured children, including those suffering from cerebral palsy, the Illinois Supreme Court extended the statute of limitations for minors suffering from a brain injury indefinitely.

In Bruso v. Alexian Brothers Hospital, 178 Ill. 2d 445, 453 (1997), the Illinois Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Michael Bilandic held, that a minor who is under another legal disability, such as a brain injury, shall have the statute of limitations tolled on his claim until said legal disability is lifted. As a result, brain injured persons are protected from the statute of limitations until such a time as their disability no longer exists. This is a significant victory for consumers in Chicago, and throughout Illinois.

September 18, 2009

$14 million Verdict Against Doctor for Treatment That Left A Man Disabled For Life



Medical Malpractice attorneys won a $14 million jury verdict on behalf of a father and optometrist left bed-ridden and paralyzed resulting from a botched, unnecessary procedure in 2002. According to the lawsuit, Francis Ziadie was suffering from dizziness and slurred speech when he arrived at the emergency room. The next morning, Ziadie complained of short-term slurred speech and numbness in his hand. A CAT scan and magnetic resonance angiography showed no evidence of a stroke. Doctors diagnosed transient ischemic attacks which, according to the standard of care, are treated with aspirin and Plavix. Usually these syptoms resolve themselves within 3-6 months.

Instead, doctors inserted a stent into the patients Carotid Artery. Because the patient was on blood thinning medications at the time, blood leaked from the puncture site and pooled around his brain causing massive pressure damage.

The jury returned their verdict in less then six hours, finding that the plaintiff, now age 53, will require around the clock attendant care for the rest of his life.

August 19, 2009

What Does Medical Malpractice Mean In Illinois



Medical malpractice refers to a medical error or omission commited by a health care provider, usually a doctor nurse or other professional, which deviates from the standard of care or practice for that professional which causes harm or injury. In Illinois, the standard of care is defined as what a reasonably well-qualified professional would do under like or similiar circumstances. If a doctor's care does not comply with the standard of care he is negligent.

In order to have an actionable medical malpractice case in Chicago, Cook County or throughout Illinois, a doctor's negligence has to cause or contribute to cause an injury. It doesn't need to be the only cause, or nearest cause, but can be any cause which in part causes an injury or harm to a patient.

Medical Malpractice is a highly technical practice area within the realm of personal injury law. Lawyers who concentrate on medical malpractice cases typically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars prosecuting their claims and often work on a contingency fee or percentage basis. Some examples of medical malpractice include obstetrical malpractice, failure to diagnose and/or treat cancer, surgical malpractice and nursing home abuse and neglect. At Goldberg & Goldberg we have represented the victims of medical malpractice for more then 40 years.

August 11, 2009

State Court Overturns Largest Malpractice Verdict Ever



The New Jersey state Supreme Court overturned that state's largest medical malpractice verdict ever, a jury award of $70 million. The reason the case was overturned was because the jury was exposed to medical professionals and the defendant hospital during the jury selection process.

In a 6-0 decision, Justice Helen Hoens wrote for the court, "In light of the relentless and unchecked litany of complaints throughout the selection process, the attorneys had no way of knowing which of the potential jurors who had expressed no bias might later find it impossible to put aside what they had heard from those who had been excused,"

The case involved a 4 month old child who was deprived of oxygen to his brain during surgery to remove a tumor at the base of his spine. The little boy now is catastrophically brain injured and has profound neurological impairment. A new trial is expected.

August 5, 2009

Finding The Right Lawyer In Chicago



Chicago is home to over 70,000 licensed attorneys. Finding a lawyer that is right for you can be a daunting task. The internet and the television airwaves are flooded with advertisements for lawyers that promise big settlements and no fees unless you win. The question you need to ask yourself and the lawyer that you interview is are you qualified, by the nature of your prior experience, to handle my case and see it through to the bitter end.

Medical Malpractice is a very expensive and specialized area of practice. Lawyers who handle medical malpractice litigation typically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless man hours prosecuting a succesful claim. The skills necessary to be a succesful practicioner are not learned overnight. At Goldberg & Goldberg we have been in the medical malpractice business for more then forty years. The least experienced member of our firm has been handling medical cases for fifteen years. We work up and try all of our cases ourselves. We can, and routinely do, take appellate matters before the state supreme court. We have represented litigants in all manner of litigation in more then twenty different states.

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When you interview a lawyer that you have become acquainted with over the internet or through a television advertisement ask him if he handles his cases himself or refers them out to a more experienced lawyer. Ask how many medical malpractice jury trials he has taken to verdict as a first chair lawyer. Ask him or her about past results and ask to see jury verdict reports to document his experience. At Goldberg & Goldberg we have had hundreds of verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million. We have the largest personal injury verdict in Illinois history. Our track record speaks for itself. We would be happy to show you examples of some of our results in court.

July 21, 2009

Why Saying Sorry For Medical Malpractice Is The Right Thing To Do



Victim's of medical malpractice at Chicago area hospitals should not expect an apology from those doctors or the hospital that is at fault for their injury. It has long been the custom and practice of Chicago area physicians to never dare to apologize or admit any mistakes, no matter how devastating.

Not so at the University of Michigan. Doctors there say that admitting their mistakes upfront and offering fair financial compensation saves time, money and hurt feelings. According to a 2009 article in the Journal Of Health And Life Sciences law, the effectiveness of taking responsibility of medical mistakes goes beyond common decency. According to the article, malpractice claims against a health system with a policy of offering early apologies and settlements fell from 121 in 2001 to 61 in 2006, while the backlog of open claims went from 262 in 2001 to 106 in 2006 and 83 in 2007. Between 2001 and 2007, the average time to process a claim fell from about 20 months to about eight months, costs per claim were halved and insurance reserves dropped by two-thirds.

There is evidence that this approach is catching on in the Chicago area. Apparently the University of Illinois is considering adopting an apologize and settler early approach to adjusting malpractice claims. This type of forward thinking makes sense from both a financial and humanitarian perspective.

July 17, 2009

Chicago Eye Doctor Faces Discipline After Being Sued For Medical Malpractice 50 Times



The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Dr. Nicholas Caro is facing disciplinary charges from The Illinois Department of Professional Regulation after being sued for medical malpractice 50 times in Cook County.

In the complaint against Dr. Nicholas Caro, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation claims Caro failed to properly diagnose a patient's keratoconus, a pre-existing eye condition that should have ruled him out as a candidate for Lasik surgery. Caro has yet to respond to the allegations. The agency is asking that Caro's license be suspended or revoked because of his conduct.

The IDPR has been criticized for not aggresively prosecuting physicians who repeatedly subject their patients to risky and harmful medical care and treatment. The IDPR is the Illinois state agency empowered to discipline a doctor's license in the case of misconduct.

July 15, 2009

Federal Lawsuits Over Malpractice At Illinois Veteran's Hospitals Settle



The second federal lawsuit against the Marion, Illinois Veteran's Hospital has settled in the wake of substandard care at the hospital which resulted in the Hospital suspending surgical procedures for the past two years. Surgeries at the hospital were halted after the Veteran's Administration found that patients had died at the facility due to substandard care and treatment. The terms of the settlement are undisclosed.

The VA has been critical of the marion facility, finding its prior administration to be dysfunctional and inefficient. The Veteran's Administration has been under harsh criticism for the operation of its hospitals which has been highlighted by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.