Class Action Lawsuits Rise Nationwide

Our medical malpractice attorneys are deeply concerned about the rising number of medical negligence lawsuits surfacing in the news.

Reports in the Albuquerque Journal state that New Mexico may be forced to pay a staggering compensation of $120 million for an estimated 101 new medical malpractice claims that could be part of a potential class action lawsuit. The state has already paid settlements totaling about $45 million to 118 families since 1998.

The state-commissioned study by AON Risk Solutions says that in 1998, University of New Mexico hospital official revealed that children were not administered the latest drugs to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia during the period 1989 to October 1996. Since then, lawsuits have mounted against UNM and the chief of the hospital’s pediatric oncology clinic, who claims that medically appropriate and effective treatment was provided.

None of these lawsuits resulted in a trial, though the physician was forced to leave service and surrender her state medical license.

However, a potential class action lawsuit filed in 2001 by two parents whose children died is still awaiting settlement. The lawsuit claims that the patients and their families were not provided with the necessary information on the treatments given or the risks of the proposed treatments, and that they were discouraged from seeking second opinions.

The amount that the state allotted for future settlements of pediatric oncology cases was only 19.6 million. The pending class action lawsuit increased the state’s potential liability to $120 million. As UNM is a state institution and the state is self-insured for liability losses, taxpayer dollars are paying for the 11-year old litigation against the state.

Whether the case will have a class certification will be determined in a state district court hearing after about one year. Even if the class action is not certified, the physician can be sued individually.

Class action medical malpractice lawsuits and mass tort have gained popularity recently as they have an important advantage – strength in numbers. A large group of people in the same circumstances can increase the strength of the case. Moreover, individuals who cannot afford to pursue a claim on their own can get easier access to cases. In a class action lawsuit, all persons involved are treated equally and handled in a single court proceeding.

Another federal lawsuit for which class action status has been sought was filed by a Minnesota woman in October this year. She sued the New England Compounding Center, the company responsible for the contaminated steroid injections she received. The woman developed headaches and nausea after receiving injections for her chronic neck pain. Though she initially attributed her symptoms to a cold or flu virus, she was later notified by the Minnesota Department of Health that the injections she received may have been contaminated.

The tainted shots have been blamed for a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis that affected about 170 people and the death of 14 others.

The case filed by the Minnesota woman is believed to be the first one in the outbreak. Since then, 50 federal lawsuits have been filed in nine states against the now-closed drug company. People sued the company for the thousands of dollars they had to spend to treat the serious conditions that the steroid injections caused. A recent report , however, says that it may take years before they get their money back, and that even if they do receive compensation, it may not be enough to cover their expenses. Moreover, federal litigation proceeds very slowly, and collecting the evidence, records and statements could take months or even years.

Hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other health care providers are bound by law to provide proper medical care to patients. If you have suffered due to negligence in treatment or care, the healthcare provider can face medical liabilities. Whether you are filing an individual lawsuit or a class action lawsuit, our medical malpractice attorneys can help you obtain justice.

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