Transgender Patient Sues After Gynecologic Surgery Goes Awry

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

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September 12, 2017

In This Article

Fewer Med-Mal Payouts: Better Laws, or Stingier Insurers?

Medical malpractice settlements in South Dakota are down dramatically from previous years, according to a July 11 report in the Argus Leader.[3]

Last year, insurance companies doing business in the state reported 12 cash settlements—ranging from $480,000 to just over $4000—resulting in a mere $1.8 million in total payouts. That's down sharply from $10.9 million over 27 cash settlements in 2014, the largest of which was $3 million.

Why have medical malpractice settlements nosedived in the Mount Rushmore State?

Doctors point to tort reform efforts that, over the past 25 years, have steadily pushed down the number of medical liability claims filed in the state. (In 2014, companies reported 163 filed or closed claims; 2 years later, that number had dipped to 125.)

Among these efforts are laws that impose a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages; set a 2-year statute of limitations on filing a med-mal claim in court; and, in some cases, reduce the size of an award on the basis of the percentage of fault assigned to the patient.

Doctors who talk up a rosier liability environment in South Dakota also credit their efforts—and that of the wider state healthcare industry—to improve patient safety, despite national studies that show medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States.

The state's trial lawyers think that the drop in claims—and the corresponding dip in payouts—has come about on the backs of patients. "In South Dakota," the Argus Leader reports, "jury verdicts in favor of patients are rare, and many lawyers have simply stopped taking the [medical malpractice] cases."

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