The More Med-Mals, the Shorter Is the Litigation: Evidence from FL
30 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2011 Last revised: 27 Nov 2016
Date Written: September 1, 2016
Medical malpractices (med-mals) are among the most long-lasting litigations in the US, with the average of more than four years. Using Florida dataset of med-mals, this study tracks each physician through multiple cases and documents a significantly negative correlation between the length of litigation and defendants’ number of prior med-mals: the current case is resolved at least one year faster, if the defendant has one more prior litigation. A “learning” hypothesis is suggested to explain this stylized fact. Theoretically, the divergent expectations (DE) model is extended to a dynamic version. It suggests that a more realistic perception of the tort system, which yields earlier closure, could be reached through prior experiences. Empirically, different tests are carried out to assess the robustness of results, specifically with respect to alternative hypothesis: 1 - plaintiffs’ pre-judgments towards physicians with worse history, 2 - physicians’ reputation (career) concerns. This study doesn’t find any evidence in support of the impact of the endogenous selection of patients, although there is room to further investigation if richer datasets are available; I also find that, the impact of prior med-mals is robust to controlling reputations concerns (proxied by expected years in front of physicians), even though it significantly increases the length of the case. Many robustness checks are carried out to test the results, including using NPDB to test the results. Finally, knowing that med-mals usually last too long and impose expensive legal procedures, introducing a new mechanism to cut it could save significant amounts of time and money for both the physicians and the tort system.
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