Medical Malpractice: The Times…Are They a Changin’?

Over the past 14 years, I have talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of people about potential medical malpractice claims. I have learned a lot during those conversations. A few themes come to mind: * People often do not understand that a medical malpractice (also known as medical negligence) case is simply a personal injury case involving bad medical care. In other words, a medical malpractice case is a type of personal injury case.

* People often want to bring medical malpractice claims not just to get money (damages), but, more so, to prevent the same error(s) from happening to someone else.

* People often want to bring medical malpractice claims, not so much because of the negligent medical care, but because the medical provider who erred would not admit their mistake and/or offer a simple apology.

* The number of medical malpractice cases that are pursued is a meager few of the total number that exist.

Before I was a trial lawyer, I worked as a insurance adjuster, handling medical malpractice claims for numerous hospitals, doctors and large health maintenance organizations (HMOs). It was well-known in many of their risk management departments that claims could often be fended off by facing the music and offering an apology. Despite that knowledge, apologies were not a frequent remedy offered to the angry patient.

Almost six years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released their landmark report, “To Err is Human.” That report related that medical errors in hospitals kill between 44,000 and 98,000 people each year, making medical errors the eighth-leading cause of death in this country. (1) The report helped to confirm that most of the medical errors were not the result of the actions of any one medical provider, but that most of the errors resulted from system complexes and failures. Based on the report findings, the IOM recommended a mandatory reporting system in which the most serious events would be reported, persistent safety problems would be identified, and action would be taken to prevent these errors.(2)

On January 20, 2005, the Minnesota Department of Health released the first-ever report on preventable adverse events in Minnesota hospitals. The report was the by-product of state legislation that was passed in 2003. The law that was passed requires all Minnesota hospitals to report to the Minnesota Department of Health whenever any of 27 so-called “never events” occurs. Examples of the 27 types of incidents that are being tracked and publicly reported include wrong-site surgery, retention of a foreign object in a patient after surgery, and death or serious disability with medication error.

The second “Adverse Health Events in Minnesota” report was issued in February 2006. The report presented information about 106 adverse health events that were reported in Minnesota between October 7, 2004 and October 6, 2005.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you all to visit the Minnesota Department of Health Web site – – to view the 2005 and 2006 reports and a complete list of reportable events.

I still maintain contact with many people who work for insurance companies. They tell me that they do not feel the adverse-event reporting will have any real negative or positive impact on medical malpractice claims. My take on it is that the reporting is helpful because it lets the public know that someone is keeping a closer watch than in the past. The list, however, since it only covers hospitals, will still only police a small portion of the medical malpractice that occurs in Minnesota. A small portion is better than none.

I often try to figure out why things happen. In this case, I am left to wonder: If it were not for lawyers willing to pursue medical providers for bad medical care, would there really be a need to provide this information to the public? Maybe, but I’d like to think that each and every malpractice lawyer had something to do with the reporting system that has been put in place.

The above is an article written by a Minnesota Malpractice Attorney with Ramsay & DeVore, P.A., in response to Minnesota’s new mandatory reporting system for specific medical errors. Specific questions regarding medical malpractice claims ought to be directed to a competent legal practitioner, such as those at Ramsay & DeVore, P.A.


(1) Institute of Medicine, To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System, Linda T. Kohn, Janet M. Corrigan, and Molla S. Donaldson, eds. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000.

(2) Ibid.

Tom Bennerotte has specialized in the area of Personal Injury for the last 15 years. From 1991 to 1997, he worked as a Claims Adjuster. Tom then went on to Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, where he focused his practice on representing people injured by medical malpractice. Since joining Ramsay & DeVore, Tom has represented a number of personal injury victims. He continues to focus his practice of representing those injured by medical malpractice.


NEED A Lawyer? Check out our Lawyer Directory!

%d bloggers like this: