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February 28, 2011

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION SAYS MALPRACTICE VICTIMS IGNORED

Medicaid Redesign Team Proposes Limiting Compensation for Patients Hurt by Bad Doctors

State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger today called on the Legislature to reject proposals of the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) that ignore the needs of thousands of future victims of medical malpractice.

"The Medicaid Redesign Team was supposed to involve 'stakeholders,' but did not allow for input from those representing New Yorkers injured by irresponsible actions of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other medical providers," said Younger [Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP].

"Instead it heard only the clamor of special interests in medical industry that long have pushed to restrict the ability of victims to be fairly compensated for medical malpractice," Younger said. The MRT's "stakeholders" consist of 27 health professionals, union leaders and government officials.  Absent were the lawyer groups representing injured victims--and the ultimate "stakeholders": medical patients. 

The New York State Bar Association strongly opposes the MRT's Proposal 131.  It would cap the amount of money an injured patient could receive for non-economic damages--also known as pain and suffering--at $250,000.  It also would create an impaired infant fund, which would modify the civil justice system without appropriate debate among interested stakeholders.

"These changes-drafted by health industry insiders-would overturn existing state tort laws if included in the Governor's budget and adopted by the Legislature," Younger said.  "Such drastic changes should be debated openly rather than potentially rammed through the budget process."

The State Bar opposes caps on non-economic damages in tort cases.  Caps on pain on pain and suffering unjustly discriminate against negligence victims who suffer the most devastating physical and psychological losses. Caps discriminate against children, homemakers, retirees and others with little or no earnings. Such caps would limit the ability to deter medical misconduct.

The Memorandum in Opposition to Proposal 131 approved by the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association is available here.
 
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation.  It was founded in 1876.