Does Tort Law Improve the Health of Newborns, or Miscarry? A Longitudinal Analysis of the Effect of Liability Pressure on Birth Outcomes

29 Pages Posted: 9 May 2012  

Y. Tony Yang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

David M. Studdert

University of Melbourne - Faculty of Law & Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

S. V. Subramanian

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Date Written: June 2012

Abstract

Previous research has identified an association between malpractice liability risk levels in a state and greater use of cesarean sections in obstetrical care. However, it is unclear whether such practice changes are associated with better birth outcomes. Using a mixed‐effects model, we investigate the impact of malpractice risk, as measured by malpractice insurance premiums and various state tort reforms, on four adverse birth outcomes. We use a longitudinal research design to examine millions of individual births from 51 jurisdictions over 12 years (1991–2002). We find that the odds of adverse birth outcomes are not associated with premium levels or tort reforms. Our results suggest that rather than having a socially desirable deterrent effect on substandard care, liability pressure may produce a level of precaution taking in obstetrics that is higher than socially optimal. By the same token, the results also suggest that the adoption of liability‐limiting reforms is unlikely to have an adverse impact on outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Yang, Y. Tony and Studdert, David M. and Subramanian, S. V., Does Tort Law Improve the Health of Newborns, or Miscarry? A Longitudinal Analysis of the Effect of Liability Pressure on Birth Outcomes (June 2012). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp. 217-245, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2055068 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1740-1461.2012.01252.x

Y. Tony Yang (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

David M. Studdert

University of Melbourne - Faculty of Law & Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences ( email )

185 Pelham Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053
Melbourne, Victoria 3010
Australia

S. V. Subramanian

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health ( email )

677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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