Earlier this month, a New Hampshire medical malpractice jury rejected the unanimous decision of a New Hampshire medical malpractice panel that had found in favor of a cardiologist and his cardiology practice after they were sued for medical malpractice by the parents of a 37-year-old man who died as a result of undiagnosed heart disease in June 2005.
The man had sought treatment with the cardiologist on three occasions after he had fainted in April and again in September 2004. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the cardiologist failed to perform the proper tests and that the cardiologist advised the man that his heart was healthy. A medical examiner testified during the medical malpractice trial that the autopsy he performed on the man’s body found a lesion on the man’s heart and that his heart disease probably began in September 2004.
New Hampshire enacted a new law in 2005 that requires medical malpractice claims to be initially determined by a medical malpractice panel consisting of a retired judge, a physician, and a lawyer who informally decide whether there was medical negligence that caused the injury. While the panel’s decision is non-binding on the parties, the medical malpractice jury can be made aware of the medical malpractice panel’s decision only if the panel’s decision was unanimous. Of the 213 medical malpractice cases brought before a New Hampshire medical malpractice panel as of September 2012, the panel’s decision was unanimous in 163 of the medical malpractice cases and 112 medical malpractice panel decisions were in favor of the medical malpractice defendant.
It took four years after the medical malpractice panel had found unanimously in favor of the cardiologist and his cardiology practice for the case to be tried before a medical malpractice jury. The New Hampshire medical malpractice jury awarded the man’s parents $1.5 million against the medical malpractice defendants after hearing all of the trial testimony, evaluating all of the evidence, and considering the arguments of the parties’ attorneys. There was no offer made by the cardiologist or his cardiology practice to settle the parents’ medical negligence claims against them before the jury returned its verdict. This was the first time in New Hampshire that a medical malpractice jury had disregarded the unanimous decision of a New Hampshire medical malpractice panel.
It offends our sense of fairness, justice, and fair-play that some U.S. states have interfered with the traditional and revered right to have our civil claims and disagreements determined by an unbiased jury selected from our own communities. It makes no sense that medical malpractice plaintiffs need to try their medical malpractice claims twice, once before a medical malpractice panel and a second time in much more detail before a medical malpractice jury, that results in a vast waste of time and double the cost for all involved before justice can be finally achieved.
If you or a someone you know may have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice in New Hampshire or in another U.S. state, you should promptly contact a New Hampshire medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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