Associate 2011-12

David Hyman


Medical Malpractice Claiming in Illinois, 1980-2008

Medical malpractice has been a major national policy issue for several decades, with interest in the issue rising and falling with spikes and valleys in malpractice premiums. What causes these fluctuations? Plaintiffs’ lawyers blame price-gouging insurers and the “insurance cycle.” Doctors blame runaway juries and frivolous litigation. Both sides rely on anecdotes and sweeping assertions to make their case. Wherein lies the truth?

Using a comprehensive non-public dataset of closed insurance claims from the Illinois Department of Insurance (IDOI), Professor Hyman will examine these issues. First, were two recent malpractice crises attributable to changes in the litigation/tort environment (e.g., increases in the number of claims, the cost of defending each claim, or the payout per claim)? Second, are particular physicians and specialties responsible for a disproportionate share of claims and payouts? Stated differently, are most malpractice claims attributable to “bad apples” (individual bad doctors), “bad bushels” (high-risk settings or specialties), or to other factors?

Professor Hyman will also examine the geography of malpractice claiming. Madison and St. Claire counties are routinely held up as “judicial hellholes” and examples of an out-of-control liability system. Professor Hyman will assess the merits of those claims.

Finally, Professor Hyman will attempt to examine the gender and social justice implications of malpractice claiming and tort reform by examining whether caps on non-economic damages have a disproportionate impact on women and the elderly.