New York Seeks to Expand Medical Malpractice Courts


Medical malpractice cases can be some of the most complicated cases to litigate. Not only do cases often require significant investigation and expert testimony, but lawyers are frequently tasked with explaining complex scientific arguments to judges and juries with little to no medical background.

To help remedy this problem, one Bronx judge began focusing on medical malpractice cases, using his specialized knowledge to help parties settle claims before trial. That judge – Justice Douglas McKeon -now handles about 12 to 15 cases per month, bringing litigants in for frank discussions about the facts of their case and its probable value.

Fifteen years after Justice McKeon began his work, the federal government has provided a $3 million grant for a pilot program to expand so-called “medical malpractice courts” into Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Erie County.

The pilot is designed to target high population areas that have both a large number of medical malpractice cases and high hospital malpractice costs.

What Does This Mean for Malpractice Plaintiffs?

Both sides potentially benefit from being able to settle cases earlier. Hospitals keep costs down, and are able to pass that savings on to patients. The same goes for plaintiffs, who may be spared the expense and burden of going through trial.

It is important, however, that the decision to settle remains voluntary. Although a judge may encourage a very candid discussion of a case’s merits, failings and monetary value, plaintiffs should feel no pressure to settle. Either side should feel free to take the case to trial if they believe the other party is not being reasonable in settlement negotiations.

One thing still remains true – even with a streamlined process, malpractice claims still involve complex issues that are best handled by experienced professionals. If you’ve been the victim of medical negligence, contact a New York medical malpractice attorney with a proven track record of success.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “More NY courts to focus on medical malpractice,” 11 November 2011

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