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Medical malpractice: $1.37 million when doctors dropped from suit

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

In most cases, when a medical malpractice suit is settled, it still goes on the doctor's records. This allows those considering hiring a particular doctor to have the opportunity to review relevant information concerning the doctor's standard of medical care.

Additionally, this information is recorded with the National Practitioner Data Bank, which holds a record of all past verdicts, keeps track of payments made on behalf of doctors in medical malpractice cases and otherwise makes note of serious disciplinary action taken against them.

Sometimes, doctors are not included in the final settlement of a medical malpractice lawsuit, and the financial responsibility lies solely with the hospital. The hospital is said to do this to protect their doctors. But that doesn't mean it is right. In the same sense, there's not much to be done about it because patients' families typically agree to dismiss the doctors from the suit in order to obtain the settlement they seek. This could have been what happened with one Pennsylvania case.

A 62-year-old man who was being treated at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital died in 2009. The victim's family named the Hospital and four treating doctors in a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging negligence in the medical care of their loved one. The case was ultimately settled by removing the four doctors from the suit, with the hospital agreeing to pay the $1.37 million under the agreement.

Whether one would want to follow the path as many other individuals and receive their settlement by removing doctor's names from the lawsuit is potentially up to the individual. While this course of action does protect the doctors that were allegedly responsible for the incident, it also gets the families the money that they are in need of. Therefore, some victims decide that they don't want to litigate longer than they have to and choose to negotiate terms.

Nevertheless, Pennsylvania residents clearly have rights when it comes to claims of medical malpractice negligence committed by doctors or hospitals, and it remains to be seen if this increasingly common settlement practice will stand the test of time.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Removing doctors in settlements can deflect oversight," Sean D. Hamill, May 20, 2012

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