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Report: Health Courts ‘Bad Medicine’ for CO Justice System

October 1, 2007

Denver, CO – A separate system of health courts, specifically to handle medical malpractice cases, would be the "wrong prescription" for Colorado. That's the finding of professors at Case Western Reserve University, in a report funded in part by the American Association for Justice.

Colorado is one of a handful of states where supporters plan to introduce a health court bill in the General Assembly.
But John Sadwith, executive director of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, says separate health courts hurt consumers.

"Any system that attempts to cut out the jury system would be solely there to help the stakeholders; in this case being the medical professionals and the insurance industry."

Proponents say a health court would control costs and speed up the system. Sadwith counters that any improvements would come at a heavy cost to the justice system, and to taxpayers.

"This system would actually cost taxpayers money. It may save the insurance industry money by having to pay out less in medical malpractice claims, but it's not going to save the taxpayers money."

Health courts are often compared to a process currently in place for workers' compensation claims. The report finds such a system would give insurance companies control of court decisions at every step, which Sadwith says is bad news for consumers.

"The insurance company would be controlling whether a medical malpractice victim should receive compensation, and that's sort-of like the fox guarding the henhouse."

Congress and several state legislatures have already rejected bills to fund health court pilot projects.

Eric Mack/John Robinson, Public News Service - CO