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Letter in Opposition to Senate Bill S3766- June 2011

RE:              S3766 Sponsored by Senator Bonacic
                     A625 Sponsored by M of A Weinstein

Status:         Senate: Calendar #912
                     Assembly Calendar #299

AN ACT to amend the general obligations law, in relation to settlements in tort actions; and to repeal certain provisions of such law relating thereto

Dear Elected Official:

S3766/A625 proposes that when medical malpractice lawsuits are brought against two or more defendants (physician or hospital), non-settling defendants must elect prior to trial to reduce their liability by either 1) the balance of the jury award to the plaintiff (e.g., injured patient), or 2) by an equitable share determined by the jury.

New York Hospital Queens strongly opposes this bill because it forces non-settling defendants to make uninformed pre-trial decisions. If this bill is enacted, statewide coverage costs would increase by 5% (or $80 million), according to the Greater New York Hospital Association.

New York Hospital Queens opposes legislation that would require a non-settling co-defendant to make a gamble prior to trial whether to reduce his/her liability exposure by either a settling co-defendant’s settlement amount or the settling defendant’s proportionate share of fault. Under current law, a jury verdict is reduced by the greater of the amount paid by settling defendants or the share of fault allocated by the jury to a defendant who has already settled.

The current rule makes certain that the plaintiff does not receive more than the amount awarded by a jury. This proposal would instead permit the plaintiff the potential to be unjustly enriched by collecting more than the jury ultimately determined the non-settling defendants' equitable share to be if the settling defendant settles for an amount that exceeds their equitable share of the award. It is of course an opportunity for trial attorneys to receive greater fees as well. Again, given the overwhelmingly expensive cost of purchasing liability insurance coverage, legislation should not be passed that needlessly adds to these costs.

Sincerely,

Stephen S. Mills
President and Chief Executive Officer        

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