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Medical Malpractice Courts

June 24, 2009

Greg Mankiw–a Harvard economist (one of my favorite economists)–tells a story about a recent experience with jury duty selection for a medical malpractice case.  Basically, he concludes that he was dismissed from being included in the jury based on the fact that he is a Harvard economist and wonders why this might make him an undesirable juror in a medical malpractice case.

I thought this post was interesting because it highlights how arbitrary jury selection may be in medical malpractice.  In this instance, the lawyers only knew his occupation.  Why would a high level of education make him a bad juror (for either side)?  Don’t you want people who have excellent critical thinking skills on juries?

More importantly, this post rekindled my interest in the usefulness of creating courts that only deal with medical malpractice cases.  Although I’ve never been a part of a medical malpractice case (and hope to stay away from them as long as humanly possible), I assume that the facts are very technical and complicated.  In such instances, doesn’t it make sense to have juries or judges that are intimately familiar with medical issues and understand the complex interactions between biological causes and reasonable clinical decisions?  Additionally, couldn’t such courts move at a much quicker pace, resolving the issue for both parties faster than our current system?

Admittedly, I don’t know enough about this issue–specifically how such courts would function and what exactly the pros and cons to such a system may be.  My limited understanding is that such courts would be better equipped to quickly dismiss frivolous lawsuits (good for clinicians) and grant speedier awards in cases of actual malpractice (good for patients) while reducing trial costs overall (bad for lawyers, but good for everyone else).  We have such courts for bankruptcy, why not medical malpractice?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    June 24, 2009 1:49 pm

    Unfortunately, from what I’ve heard/read, most lawyers would prefer less educated juries because they feel those types are more likely to buy into their argument (regardless of what the stance taken). Basically, if a lawyer feels like they are good at “lawyering” then it doesn’t matter whether their case is best, because they can influence people. Also, more educated people are less likely to react emotionally, leading to a large award. Awesome.


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