Ciresi Conlin LLP
It has been said that post-covid, the value of medical malpractice cases rose as juries around the country became more liberal in their awards.
That may be exemplified by recent results from Cirisi Conlin’s medical malpractice lawyers Kathleen Flynn Peterson, Robert King Jr. and Brandon Thompson.
One was a $111 million verdict in Thapar v. St. Cloud Orthopedics, which Thompson tried before Magistrate Judge Leung in District Court. Thapar at the time of the accident was a 17-year-old student, who was injured while playing indoor soccer. He went to St. Cloud Hospital with a broken leg and underwent surgery that night. He developed acute compartment syndrome, which is pressure in a group of muscles, nerves and blood vessels. The muscles and nerves may die.
Thapa subsequently needed over a dozen surgeries and has permanent and disabling injuries.
Of the $111 million verdict, $1 million was for past and future medical expenses, $10 million was for past pain and suffering, and $100 million was awarded for future pain and suffering. There was no claim for lost wages or lost earning capacity.
King resolved some product liability cases recently and a couple of malpractice cases that involved the drug Heparin which may lead to blood clots, although it may be prescribed to prevent clotting.
The duo had about seven complex cases in 2022 between February and July. “We’ve had an incredible number of cases,” King said.
Flynn Peterson had no trials but had seven and eight figure settlements, another indication of the increasing value of cases. One was $2.9 million for a health care provider who had a nerve injury that prevented her from using her arm and shoulder.
With confidential settlements, the value of other cases is not always accessible to plaintiffs, lawyers say. “I cringe when a lawyer doesn’t understand the value of cases,” said Thompson. “They are leaving money on the table.”
The question of case value will become even more important as changes to Minn. Stat. 573 take effect, Flynn Peterson said. At deadline, the Legislature had passed S.F. 997, which amends the statute to provide that a personal injury claim survives the death of the injured person. The governor was expected to sign it.
The profession has also seen more bad faith claims by providers against malpractice insurers, lawyers said.
Some providers are finding that their malpractice insurer has refused to settle claims, leaving the providers in personal jeopardy. Lawyers are watching two bad faith cases in Iowa, Flynn Peterson said, both involving MMIC, a malpractice insurer based in Minnesota. One move by the insurer that has drawn fire is the condition before settling the claim that the insured assign their bad faith claims against the insurer, back to the insurer. In that case, the verdict was about $90 million on behalf of a baby whose head was crushed during delivery.
Flynn Peterson thinks that one reason for bigger verdicts is frustration with the disruption in health care that came to light during the pandemic. Verdicts are going up across the country and the medical profession is somewhat fractured by shortages of persons and pharmaceuticals.
Many doctors have retired because it is just too frustrating to practice medicine and medical malpractice lawyers have retired because it’s too difficult to bring a case, Flynn Peterson said.
And a successful case still is bittersweet, Flynn Peterson said. A recent case about the death of a baby settled in spring. “I would rather have handed them their baby back.”