W. Va. Medical Liability System Shows Continuing Problems; 5 Counties Considered Real Challenges

April 1, 2004

Doctors believe that frivolous lawsuits are increasing the cost of healthcare and West Virginia patients are paying the price, according to a survey released (See National News) by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and SickofLawsuits.org.

The study, which polled physicians practicing in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia, clearly demonstrates that doctors recognize how medical lawsuits hurt our healthcare system. In West Virginia, the majority of physicians surveyed believe that practicing medicine in areas ATRA has designated as Judicial Hellholes(TM) negatively affects their ability to practice medicine and increases the cost of patient care.

“This study suggests that despite recent reforms, healthcare lawsuits continue to harm West Virginia’s healthcare system,” said ATRA President Sherman Joyce. “Physicians report continuing concerns about lawsuit exposure – forcing physicians to limit services, retire early, or move to states with more stable liability environments. The healthcare litigation crisis is threatening access to care for patients.”

Judicial Hellholes are state trial court jurisdictions where ATRA believes that impartial justice is unavailable. ATRA believes that 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 West Virginia, ATRA has identified Brooke, Hancock, Ohio, Marshall and Kanawha Counties as Judicial Hellhole jurisdictions.

Six key areas of concern were reflected in the survey of West Virginia physicians:

*96 percent report that they are concerned about the effect of medical litigation on the practice of medicine.

*87 percent report that they have changed the way they practice
medicine because of litigation concerns, and 40 percent report that
they have changed the way they practice “a lot.”

*93 percent believe that Judicial Hellholes increase medical malpractice insurance costs.

*46 percent say that personal injury lawyers target jurisdictions known for large settlements; eighty-three percent say these jurisdictions negatively affect their ability to practice medicine.

*95 percent say that inflammatory advertising by personal injury lawyers drives up the number of lawsuits; 62 percent agree that such advertising can result in patients failing to seek appropriate medical care.

*98 percent believe that unnecessary litigation increases patient care costs; 76 percent say it increases costs “a lot.”

“Fear of litigation is hurting West Virginia healthcare,” added Bill Bissett, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA). “Studies of this nature prove what common sense and experience are 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 enrich personal injury lawyers, they adversely impact both the quality and the cost of healthcare for the rest of us.”

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and SickofLawsuits.org 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.

For more information, or to receive a copy of the report findings, visit ATRA’s Web site, www.atra.org.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.