A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for just about three hours before coming to a decision that Theresa Michels did not prove that Dr. Myron D. Haas of Orthopedic Associates of Pottsville Inc. was negligent in treating her broken wrist, nor did he cause the reflex sympathetic dystrophy that has since affected her left hand.
Michels, a Pottsville woman alleged in the medical malpractice suit that the cast put on her wrist was too tight and has caused ongoing pain in her left hand. Haas’ lawyer claimed that the reflex sympathetic dystrophy was caused by her fall from a stool on Aug 23, 2003, a fall in which she broke her wrist. While Judge Cyrus Palmer Dolbin revealed the verdict was not unanimous, only 10 of the 12 jurors votes are needed for a verdict in a civil case in Pennsylvania. Michels would receive nothing from the lawsuit filed in 2005.
An Ongoing Trend
According to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, the total number of medical malpractice payouts shifted dramatically from $3 billion to $4.7 billion between 1992 and 2003. The nine years between 2003 and 2011 has resulted in a decrease to about $3.7 billion. This decrease is likely due to a number of reasons including the passage of malpractice payout caps in nearly 30 states and new state rules and regulations aimed at filtering frivolous lawsuits from those that are credible.
The number of lawsuits against doctors and hospitals across the state of Pennsylvania dropped to the lowest point since the state’s high court enacted these rules and regulations. Between 2002, when the new regulations took effect, and 2010 the number of Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuits decreased 45.4%. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, juries also returned verdicts in favor of health care providers (on the defendant side) in more than 80% of the cases.
The new regulations require lawyers who file medical claims to also file a statement by a medical expert that a lawsuit is not frivolous. In addition, suits must be filed in the county in which the alleged malpractice occurred in order to prevent counties deemed friendly to plaintiffs. Since these regulations took effect, the number of filings in Philadelphia has decreased by nearly 70%
In Philadelphia, the state’s busiest county court system, the number of medical malpractice filings decreased nearly 70 percent. Below are the county lawsuits percentage change under new rules according to the Pennsylvania Medical Society.
- Berks -16%
- Bucks -8%
- Carbon – 71%
- Lehigh – 48%
- Monroe -81%
- Northampton – 79%
- Schuylkill -56%