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  Medical Malpractice - Legal News


The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected appeals from three Republican U.S. House members who challenged fines for not wearing face coverings on the House floor in 2021.

The justices did not comment on leaving in place $500 fines issued in May 2021 to U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Ralph Norman of South Carolina.

The mask requirement was part of the House’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mandate remained in place even after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance noting that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.”

The lawmakers showed up on the House floor without masks, even posing for a selfie. The requirement was lifted in June 2021.

Lower courts had refused to disturb the fines, ruling that courts lack the power to review the mask policy.

Lawyers for House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, had urged the court to reject the appeal from fellow Republican representatives, though they noted that Johnson and every other member of the Republican leadership voted against the mask policy.


Kentucky lawmakers voted Tuesday night to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, taking a preemptive step for tougher restrictions that’s tied to a looming U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion rights.

The measure sparked protests from abortion-rights advocates, who chanted “abortion is health care” and unfurled banners that said “stop the bans” before being cleared from the Senate gallery during a debate earlier in the day.

The bill won final passage hours later in the House. It followed Senate action that inserted the 15-week ban into the sweeping bill that would regulate the dispensing of abortion pills. The measure — sent to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear — is the latest round of abortion restrictions passed in Kentucky since Republicans took complete control of the legislature after the 2016 election.

The proposed 15-week ban is modeled after a Mississippi law under review by the nation’s high court in a case that could dramatically limit abortion rights in the United States.

Kentucky law currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Opponents said the bill’s restrictions were so onerous that no abortion clinic could comply.

“The walls are closing in on safe and legal abortion care in the commonwealth,” said Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

Much of the debate Tuesday revolved around the proposed regulation of dispensing of abortion pills, requiring women to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving the medication. Opponents called the measure another intrusion into women’s medical decisions.

“This oversight is specifically designed to regulate a safe, effective medical procedure out of existence because you don’t believe in it,” said Democratic Sen. Karen Berg.

“You don’t feel that women have the right to control their own reproductive life,” she added. “And I tell you, you do not have the rights to make that decision for me.”

Republican Sen. Ralph Alvarado defended the restrictions, saying the bill would “prevent at-home, pill-by-mail, do-it-yourself abortions that leave women to fend for themselves if medical complications arise.”

The bill is part of a nationwide push by anti-abortion groups to limit the ability of physicians to prescribe abortion pills by telemedicine, and comes in response to the increased use of pills rather than surgery to terminate early pregnancies.

About half of abortions performed in Kentucky are the result of medication procedures.


The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that an apology by a medical provider that includes an admission of liability can't be used in a later lawsuit against the provider.

At issue in the court's Tuesday decision was the state's "apology law," which already bars using apologies in lawsuits.

The new question before the court was whether an apology that includes an expression of fault can also be kept out of lawsuits.

Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote that under Ohio law the apology may include an acknowledgment that a patient's medical care fell below standards of care without it later being used as evidence.

The court looked at the case of a woman in Brown County in southern Ohio who died after trying to kill herself in a hospital.


The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday upheld damages that were awarded in a lawsuit the state brought against a prescription drug company accused of inflating prices.

The lawsuit dates back to 2004 when then-Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager sued 36 drug companies alleging they inflated wholesale prices to get larger payments from Medicaid, private insurers and consumers.

The case against Pharmacia Inc. was the first to go to trial, and in 2009 a jury found that the drug maker violated the state's Medicaid fraud law 1.44 million times over a decade. After reviewing the evidence, the judge found the actual tally was 4,578 and ordered the company to pay $4.5 million in forfeitures and other costs. The jury also awarded $9 million in damages.

Pharmacia appealed, arguing that the jury incorrectly calculated the damages, that the number of violations should be reduced to zero, and that a jury trial was improper.


A former Massachusetts dentist was sentenced to one year in jail Monday for using paper clips instead of stainless steel posts in root canals.

Dr. Michael Clair pleaded guilty earlier this month to a list of charges, including assault and battery, defrauding Medicaid of $130,000, illegally prescribing medications and witness intimidation.

Prosecutors said Clair sometimes used sections of paper clips when performing root canals in an effort to save money. Some of his patients reported infections and other problems.

Brenda Almeida said her teenage son's tooth turned black and had to be removed after Clair performed a root canal on him in 2005. She said Clair also performed shoddy dental work on her other two children.

Almeida, who watched Clair get sentenced in Fall River Superior Court Monday, said she was angry about what she considers to be a light sentence.

"He put my kids in pain for months ... I hope he rots there," she said after Judge Richard Moses sentenced Clair to a year in the Bristol County House of Correction.

Prosecutors, who asked for a sentence of five to seven years, declined to comment immediately after the sentence was imposed.


The Illinois Supreme Court is not yet issuing an opinion on whether the state's medical malpractice law is constitutional.

The court announced earlier this week it could rule Thursday on whether damage awards in medical mistakes may be capped.

But no opinion was released. Justices traditionally give no reason for the timing of their decisions.

The General Assembly adopted caps in 2005 as a way to keep doctors from fleeing the state because of rising insurance rates.

It limited what victims could collect for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering to $500,000 against doctors and $1 million against hospitals.

A Cook County judge ruled in 2007 that caps interfered with juries' power to award appropriate damage awards for medical errors.



The majority of medical malpractice claims in a study of seven states were closed without any compensation paid to those claiming a medical injury, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported.

BJS conducted a study of medical malpractice insurance claims that were closed from 2000 through 2004 in Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada and Texas. These states were identified as having comprehensive medical malpractice insurance claims databases, some of which extended back to the early 1990s.

About one-third of the medical malpractice insurance claims closed in Maine, Missouri and Nevada resulted in a payout. In Illinois about 12 percent of closed claims ended in a payout.

Few medical malpractice insurance claims produced payouts that exceeded $1 million. Less than 10 percent of the claims in Florida, Maine, Missouri and Nevada had payouts of $1 million or more. In Florida, Maine and Missouri, about two-thirds of the claims were closed with insurance payouts of less than $250,000.

Among persons receiving compensation, insurance payouts were highest for claimants who suffered lifelong major or grave permanent injuries. In Florida and Missouri, claimants with these types of injuries received median payouts ranging from $278,000 to $350,000. Insurance payouts were lowest for claimants who suffered temporary or emotional injuries. In Florida and Missouri, claimants who suffered these types of injuries received median payouts ranging from $5,000 to $79,000.

Medical malpractice insurance payouts increased as the insurance claims advanced through the legal system. Payouts were typically lowest for claims closed prior to the filing of a lawsuit and highest for claims closed after trial. In Florida, Nevada and Texas, claims decided by trial resulted in median payouts that were at least two and a half times larger than claims that were settled. Claims closed after a trial also cost more for insurance firms to defend than claims settled at or prior to a trial. In Florida, Nevada and Texas, 95 percent or more of medical malpractice claims were settled prior to a trial decision before a jury or judge.

The median damages paid to medical malpractice claimants have increased since the early to late 1990s. In Missouri, for example, the median insurance payouts grew from $33,000 in 1990 to $150,000 in 2004. During the various time periods covered by these insurance claim databases, median payouts also increased by 57 percent in Massachusetts, 49 percent in Illinois, 36 percent in Florida, 26 percent in Nevada and 27 percent in Texas.

In general, claimants did not file medical malpractice claims with insurance companies immediately after an injury. In Florida, Missouri and Texas, medical malpractice claims were filed with insurance companies an average of about 15 to 18 months after injury. After the claim was received, it took an average of 26 to 29 additional months to close the claim in these states.


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