Does Being a Repeat Player Make a Difference? The Impact of Attorney Experience and Case Picking on the Outcome of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Catherine T. Harris
Wake Forest University - Department of Sociology
Ralph A. Peeples
Wake Forest University - School of Law
Thomas B. Metzloff
Duke University - School of Law
July 3, 2007
2nd Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper
We begin with Galanter's suggestion that attorneys who are "repeat players" in a specific area of litigation have an advantage over those who are not. Using a combination of data sources we analyze the impact of attorney experience and case characteristics on case outcome of 348 North Carolina medical malpractice lawsuits. We add the insurers' evaluation of liability to the analysis in a limited number of cases (n=72). While plaintiffs' attorney's medical malpractice case experience had an impact, we argue that this must be understood in the context of the plaintiffs' attorney's ability to pick cases in which the insurers' assessment of liability is either probable or uncertain. We find that the insurer's evaluation of liability as either uncertain or probable was predictive of money being paid to the plaintiff. The presence of a trial in the case was also tied to the case picking process, and was predictive of money not being paid. Other observers have described the system of compensation for medical malpractice as essentially rational in operation (Taragin et al. 1992; Farber and White 1991; Sloan and Hsieh 1990). In this paper, we identify the plaintiff's attorney's experience and the plaintiff's attorney's "case picking ability" as the keys to understanding the system's rationality.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: medical malpractice litigation processworking papers series
Date posted: July 5, 2007
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