Articles Posted in Minnesota

malpracticelawsuitfailsI’ve previously written about my concerns of courts letting procedure prevail over substance in personal injury cases – usually in favor of the defendant. Last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals handed down a case that underscores this problem in Bothun v. Martin LM, a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by the decedent’s surviving husband.

In 2008, a woman was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm that required surgery. Before undergoing the necessary surgery, decedent began a regimen of blood thinners and had stents inserted into her heart. In January 2009, decedent had surgery. During the procedure there was a 32-minute loss of blood to her kidneys due to renal ischemia and transient hypotension. The patient was discharged five days after the surgery and no further complications were reported. In fact, her husband reported that she looked healthy when they were leaving the hospital. All seemed well.

Less than 24 hours later an ambulance rushed the decedent to the hospital and she was pronounced dead following CPR and other emergency procedures. The attending nurses reported that the decedent’s condition changed in a matter of minutes while they were deciding on a course of action for her care.

At the conclusion of a week long wrongful death trial, the family members of a twenty-two year old college student, killed on a bicycle, have said that while they are grateful for the jury award of $591,000; although, they would have preferred that the two men that they blame for their son’s death to have been forced to spend time in prison. Felony murder and battery charges were dismissed against both defendants.

Sad details here. Apparently, the deceased had a disagreement with a member of a college hockey team. That member, along with sevreal other players and recruits, were said to have consumed 100 shots of alcohol that night. After the disagreement, the deceased apparently fled the bar on a bicycle, fleeing for his life while being chased by the boys. There were differing accounts of whether the boy was pushed, and by whom, or whether his high level of intoxication caused him to crash. Regardless of fault, it is clear that the night was riddled with poor judgment and misconduct, and that the death of this young man was absolutely senseless.

Included in the judgment was $25,000 in punitive damages against one of the boys, and $100,000 in punitive damages against the other.

A Minnesota neurosurgeon who won a defense verdict earlier this month just settled another malpractice claim.

The Pareto Principle (or 80-20 rule) says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This rule applies with greater force with doctors who commit malpractice. This neurosurgeon is a clear example: he has had nine medical malpractice cases filed against him during his time at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. He has won some jury trials – malpractice cases are tough – but most of the suits against him have settled out of court.

This doctor, who I don’t name because this blog generally does not name names, does not get a break. He has another malpractice trial coming up in November.

car collisionThe average verdict in a personal injury case in Minnesota is $271,577. The national average is $885,600.

Does this mean Minnesota juries are not sympathetic to personal injury victims? I think it might, actually. In fact, I think the statistics might actually underestimate how stingy Minnesota juries can be.

Why? The biggest driving force in personal injury verdicts is car accidents because is the most common type of personal injury case. So the state’s law in dealing with car accident claims is going to make more meaningful impact on personal injury statistics.

I wrote earlier today about a wrongful death case in Kentucky in the heat exhaustion death of a high school football player. In another wrongful death heat exhaustion case, ESPN reports that the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of former Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer against the NFL has been settled.

A Jury Verdict Research study found that the median award in Minnesota in personal injury cases is an even $30,000. Minnesota personal injury plaintiffs receive an award in 67 percent of cases that go to trial.

The median compensation in Minnesota is somewhat below the national median of $38,179 and I suspect Minneapolis, St. Paul and Rochester verdicts inflate that average a bit. But because Minnesota has no fault coverage (or PIP) in motor vehicle wreck claims up to $40,000 ($20,000 for medical bills and $20,000 for economic loss) that is subject to the collateral source rule, Minnesota personal injury lawyers tend to few small cases in Minnesota. In other words, Minnesota law provides that awards are offset by collateral source payments (if the source of reimbursement does not have a subrogation right). So the gap between the Minnesota’s median and the national median verdict is probably wider than the numbers reflect. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found Minnesota juries to be the “15th best” which means the 15th worst for personal injury victims.

Interestingly, recovery probability in Minnesota tort suits is 67% compared to the national average of 53%. I would think that the fewer amount of smaller claims would lead to a lower recovery probability because there are less smaller cases which typically do not involve a liability dispute (which you would think would actually lower the recovery probability). Accordingly, it is fair to infer from the data that Minnesota juries are inclined to believe Minnesota plaintiff’s claims as to how/why the crash/malpractice/injury occurred.