Subscribe Subscribe   Find us on Twitter Follow POL on Twitter  



Medical Malpractice Courts

In today’s WSJ ($), Betsy McCaughey argues the frequency of verdicts like that in the recent Texas Vioxx case could be reduced if there was a specialist medical court available.  Reformers have been proposing this reform for ages and Wyoming had a bill introduced this year that would set one up.  (It never made it out of the Wyoming Senate Minerals Committee — see here and scroll to SF 153))

The World Bank sponsored a paper by Edward Cazalet (a UK attorney and Judge) on this subject in 2001.  He noted some costs and benefits of specialist courts.  The benefits he describes are quicker and more effective process; consistency in decisions; creation of a cadre of advocate specialists;  and a reduced case load.  Of the costs he mentions, only two seem important in a typical state.  These essentially relate to judicial economies—are there enough cases to justify a medical court in every state’s current local jurisdictions or do we need fewer courts.  If courts were underutilized and we had to increase the geographic jurisdiction, then this could impose traveling costs on both plaintiffs and defendants.  Further, if the courts are under used, then the state has to fund a relatively expensive infrastructure.  However, at least at first blush, these seem to be relatively minor costs relative to the potential costs of  mistakes.  We already employ a plethora of specialist courts in various areas (small claims, drugs, domestic violence, bankruptcy, tax, probate, and corporations (in Delaware as pointed out by Professor Bainbridge).  Why not one more to cover med mal?   Finally, as Ms. McCaughey notes, a specialized court still provides a constitutionally guaranteed jury trial. This reform propsoal is a less radical reform than damage caps (especially on non-pecuniary damages) which bother many for their potential for injustice for those who truly suffer catastrophic injuries.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.