I previously linked to the Providence Journal’s notes about the trial testimony from the Michael Woods case. Now comes word from the Providence Journal that the case has settled.
Faced with the possibility of a multimillion dollar judgment against the hospital, this week Kent Hospital president Sandra Coletta made a phone call to plaintiff James Woods one night. Then Mr. Woods “heard something he’d never heard from Kent Hospital before, someone saying she was sorry for his family’s loss.”
Ms. Coletta came up with an idea of creating an institute named for Michael Woods, who died in the hospital’s emergency department. She pledged that the hospital would “spend $1.25 million over the next five years to develop policies and procedures to promote patient safety and improve internal communication about patient care, beginning in the emergency room.” A Woods family member would be part of the institute’s board.
Actor James Woods agreed with Ms. Coletta’s plan and dropped the case.
The “undisclosed payments” that would leave Michael Woods’ family (and the attorney representing them) “financially secure” might have had something to do with it as well.
This case is another example of a defendant folding in the high-stakes game of medical malpractice litigation.
A bad outcome occurs. From the evidence presented, negligence is hardly clear cut and even “perfect” care may have resulted in the same outcome. In the lawsuit, a high profile plaintiff weeps during testimony. Jurors are naturally sympathetic. At risk for the defendant is millions of dollars and perhaps its very viability. At risk for the plaintiff … little or nothing except the time and diligence necessary to pursue the lawsuit.
If this was a game of high-stakes poker and you knew that you could win millions, but that your pot was never at risk, wouldn’t you bet the maximum on every hand every time?
We need a mandatory – not discretionary – loser pays rule in medical malpractice lawsuits.