Tort Reform Talk Works in Tennessee

A new report issued by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance re-affirms what everyone in the state knows:  further restrictions on patient rights are not necessary in Tennessee.

The doctors (and occasionally the hospitals) have beat the tort reform drum for over thirty years, seeking further restrictions on the rights on patients to bring malpractice claims.  They launched an attack on Justice Holder's re-election effort.  They write op-ed pieces, talk to their patients, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on political contributions each legislative cycle, and employ more and more lobbyists - all to get the Legislature to give them even more special treatment in the courtroom.

The legislative effort has failed to date, but the jury pool has been contaminated.  Those of us who handle medical malpractice cases know this from our experience, but a new report from the Department confirms that experience.

The numbers:

Total judgments    

2004           6       

2005           5

2006           6               

Total settlements                     

2004         444

2005         461

2006         453

Cases Dismissed   With No Payment

2004        1916

2005        2361

2006        2514           

Total settlement $                

2004   $108,000,000

2005    $119,000,000

2006   $100,000,000

Total judgment $              

2004   $1,950,00

2005    $6,100,00

2006     $4,950,000

(Dollar values rounded) (I originally had a beautiful table to display these numbers but my software will not let me publish in table format.  'Sorry about that.

There were two jury verdicts over $1,000,000 in medical malpractice cases in 2006.  One verdict was $8630.

The average settlement was $221,000 in 2006;  in 2005 it was $258,000.

This report sends one other message:  statistics like these are absolutely essential to having an informed discussion about the need for any sort of litigation reform.  The law that mandates the reporting of this information is due to expire in one year.  The law needs to be extended so that the public can continue to have access to this important information.

Here is a copy of the full report.

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