The Anatomy Of A $43 Million Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
A patient went for surgery to remove gallstones from his bile duct and ended up in a coma for 42 days. The doctor who performed the surgery was on probation at the time for killing another patient and had his hospital privileges suspended. The doctor lost an ensuing medical malpractice lawsuit to the tune of $43 million. The lawsuit was filed in Texas.
Texas, like Florida, protects doctors from medical malpractice lawsuits. However, there is some question as to whether or not this impacts patient care. Florida operates on a three-strikes system, which dictates that a Florida doctor can lose their license if they are found by a jury to have committed malpractice on three separate occasions. However, the vast majority of medical malpractice lawsuits settle prior to going before a jury, and this outcome does not count as a “strike,” essentially rendering the whole system useless.
In this case, even though there was a finding in favor of the plaintiff at trial, the state never publicized the jury finding. An investigation of Texas’ process of holding doctors accountable found four more doctors whose names were not listed alongside medical malpractice verdicts found against them.
How does the three-strikes law work in Florida?
Ideally, the system would catch a bad doctor who is harming patients. However, to get even one strike, you need a finding by a jury. The vast majority of medical malpractice lawsuits never go to trial and those that don’t can be easily sealed to the public. Doctors who may have one or two strikes against them can settle medical malpractice lawsuits as opposed to fighting them in court to avoid a third strike. One benefit for patients, however, is that it scares doctors away from fighting medical malpractice lawsuits if they have strikes on their record, thereby speeding up the patient’s pay-out.
But most doctors won’t face one jury trial in their lifetime, let alone three. There are currently no Florida doctors who have “struck out” because of the law. In Texas, patients can search for their doctor’s name in a registry of medical malpractice verdicts. However, even if a jury has returned a verdict against the doctor, the database is not updated regularly and at least four doctors whose names should have been on the registry were left off.
Today, the best way to search for information is not to use government databases at all, but Google. Lawsuits will remain a matter of public record and should be findable for years after they are filed. Simply search for your doctor’s name in quotes such as “John Doe, M.D.” and “lawsuit” (not in quotes). Lawsuits, however, are not proof of wrongdoing.
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Palmer | Lopez represents the rights of patients in medical malpractice lawsuits. Call our Tampa medical malpractice lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.