New York City paid over $123 million last year to settle medical malpractice lawsuits against the 11 city-run hospitals. In total, that amount settled only 198 of the cases pending against the hospitals in 2017. Since 2011, the city has paid an eye-watering $928 million to settle medical malpractice lawsuits.
City representatives state that the $123 million is the lowest settlement amount in five years. Hospital officials told The New York Daily News they have “dramatically reduced medical malpractice payouts” over the last 10 years by identifying trends and stopping their recurrence. In one example cited by the newspaper, a hospital that had a higher rate of birth complications received special training in preventing and effectively handling the hospital’s most common issues.
A spokesperson for the city hospitals said they used a “pragmatic approach” to medical malpractice lawsuits. According to the spokesperson, this approach may include settling lawsuits as quickly as possible to avoid hefty legal fees. According to some New Yorkers, the hospitals are not always swift to make an offer. The New York Daily News provides an example of one lawsuit being settled four years later and, astoundingly, another medical malpractice lawsuit that took 12 years. The twelve-year litigation battle only ended when the city agreed to pay the family $3 million – an amount that did not even cover the legal fees and medical expenses caused by the doctor’s malpractice, according to the family.
The cash-strapped hospital system’s approach to medical malpractice has room for improvement, according to health policy experts. Hospitals should continue to aggressively reduce the number of patients who are mistreated each year. However, even with the best training possible, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. In these situations, city hospitals should be prepared to fairly compensate the victims in a reasonable amount of time.