ATRA Survey Reports Frivolous Lawsuits Undermine Healthcare System, Prove Negative to Patients

April 1, 2004

Doctors believe that patients are paying the price for frivolous lawsuits that are driving up the cost of healthcare and negatively affecting the practice of medicine, according to a survey released today by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and

Results of the study, which focus on physicians practicing in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia, reportedly clearly demonstrate that medical lawsuits hurt the healthcare system. The majority of physicians surveyed believe that Judicial Hellholes(TM) negatively affect their ability to practice medicine and increase the cost of patient care.

“This study suggests that Judicial Hellholes really do harm healthcare,” said Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, a trade association of more than 400 members who support civil justice reform.

Judicial Hellholes are state trial court jurisdictions where ATRA believes that impartial justice is unavailable. Personal injury lawyers seek out these jurisdictions and file cases there with the expectation that they will receive a large reward, a favorable precedent, or both. In the four states surveyed, ATRA has reportedly identified numerous Judicial Hellhole jurisdictions.

“Lawsuits are clearly taking a toll on both physicians and patients,” Dr. Elizabeth Connell, senior advisor to and former FDA Advisory Panel chairperson, commented. “In many states, frivolous lawsuits are forcing physicians to limit services, retire early, or move to states where reforms have made the system more stable. The healthcare litigation crisis is threatening access to care for patients.”

Three key areas of concern were reflected in the four states surveyed:

* Nearly all doctors believe that unnecessary lawsuits increase the cost of patient care.
— Three-quarters believe that lawsuits impact the cost of care “a lot.”

* Doctors are changing the way they practice medicine because of their concerns about medical litigation.
— Nine-out-of-10 doctors are concerned about the effect of medical litigation on their practice of medicine.

* Personal injury lawyers use scare tactics that put healthcare at risk.
— One-third of doctors have read or heard about patients who were put at risk because of inflammatory advertising by personal injury lawyers.
— Two-thirds believe that inflammatory advertising causes patients to fail to seek appropriate medical care.

“Fear of becoming a target for litigation is compelling doctors to change the way they practice medicine, and forcing some companies to pull much-needed products off the market,” Joyce said.

“This survey proves what common sense and experience is already telling us. In the last twenty years, personal injury lawyers have found litigation against physicians, other healthcare providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers to be a lucrative growth area in their practices. Unfortunately, while these frivolous lawsuits are making personal injury lawyers rich, they are harming healthcare for the rest of us,” Joyce added.

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and commissioned the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut to conduct an impartial series of list-based scientific telephone surveys with physicians concerning medical litigation issues. Interviews were conducted in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia among internists, general practitioners, OB-GYNs, cardiologists, and gastroenterologists selected from an American Medical Association list.

To receive a copy of the report findings, visit ATRA’s Web site,

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