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How To Pay $7.9 Million On A $200,000 Insurance Policy – Why Medical Malpractice Premiums Are So High

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The attorney for the injured patient was trying to settle the medical malpractice case for the amount of the doctor’s insurance, $200,000. The insurance company drew the line at $50,000. (And, only employed one defense attorney to defend two physicians with conflicting stories to tell.) Now, the insurance company will have to pay $7.9 Million. Could this explain the high cost of medical malpractice insurance?

More on this saga of stupidity from Law.com:

$7.9M Bad Faith Verdict Upheld by Pa. Federal Judge

Shannon P. Duffy
The Legal Intelligencer
March 31, 2006

A Pennsylvania federal judge refused to overturn a $7.9 million verdict in an insurance bad faith case brought on behalf of a doctor who claimed that his insurer’s failure to offer the limits of his policy led to a $2.5 million malpractice verdict against him.

In her 16-page opinion in Jurinko v. The Medical Protective Co., U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe rejected the insurer’s argument that the jury’s award of $6.25 million in punitive damages was unjustified and excessive.

The jury had two valid reasons for finding MedPro acted in bad faith, Rufe said, because there was evidence that it not only failed to settle the case when it had the chance, but also that it provided only one lawyer for both doctors named in the case — a decision that created a conflict since each of the doctors’ best defense would be to cast all blame on the other.

At trial, Rufe noted that James Alff — the MedPro employee who assigned just one lawyer for both doctors — “testified that he did so despite knowing that appointing them the same lawyer created a conflict of interest for the lawyer in violation of legal rules of ethics.”

The ruling upholds what appears to be the largest insurance bad faith verdict ever handed up in Pennsylvania, and is a victory for attorneys Mark W. Tanner and Peter M. Newman of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner & Weinstock, and Mark Frost and Gregg L. Zeff of Frost & Zeff.

Frost had represented plaintiffs Stephen and Cynthia Jurinko in a medical malpractice suit against Paul G. Marcincin, a dermatologist, for allegedly failing to diagnose Stephen Jurinko’s skin cancer.

After Marcincin was hit with a $2.5 million verdict in April 2002, he assigned his rights to the Jurinkos to pursue his bad faith claim against MedPro, as well as his rights to pursue a legal malpractice claim against his attorney, James P. Kilcoyne of Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

The Jurinkos filed both cases, and the case against MedPro went to trial first.

During a six-day trial in October, Tanner told the jury that MedPro engaged in bad faith by refusing to offer any more than $50,000 — instead of the full $200,000 of Marcincin’s policy — to settle the case.

The Jurinkos, Tanner said, decided not to pursue Marcincin’s home and assets, but instead to accept an assignment of his claims against his insurer.

In its verdict, the jury awarded the Jurinkos more than $1.66 million in compensatory damages — the difference between Marcincin’s policy limit and the “excess” verdict, including interest, against him, minus $1 million contributed by the CAT Fund — and $6.25 million in punitive damages.

The attorney for the injured patient was trying to settle the medical malpractice case for the amount of the doctor’s insurance, $200,000. The insurance company drew the line at $50,000. (And, only employed one defense attorney to defend two physicians with conflicting stories to tell.) Now, the insurance company will have to pay $7.9 Million. Could this explain the high cost of medical malpractice insurance?

More on this saga of stupidity from Law.com:

$7.9M Bad Faith Verdict Upheld by Pa. Federal Judge

Shannon P. Duffy
The Legal Intelligencer
March 31, 2006

A Pennsylvania federal judge refused to overturn a $7.9 million verdict in an insurance bad faith case brought on behalf of a doctor who claimed that his insurer’s failure to offer the limits of his policy led to a $2.5 million malpractice verdict against him.

In her 16-page opinion in Jurinko v. The Medical Protective Co., U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe rejected the insurer’s argument that the jury’s award of $6.25 million in punitive damages was unjustified and excessive.

The jury had two valid reasons for finding MedPro acted in bad faith, Rufe said, because there was evidence that it not only failed to settle the case when it had the chance, but also that it provided only one lawyer for both doctors named in the case — a decision that created a conflict since each of the doctors’ best defense would be to cast all blame on the other.

At trial, Rufe noted that James Alff — the MedPro employee who assigned just one lawyer for both doctors — “testified that he did so despite knowing that appointing them the same lawyer created a conflict of interest for the lawyer in violation of legal rules of ethics.”

The ruling upholds what appears to be the largest insurance bad faith verdict ever handed up in Pennsylvania, and is a victory for attorneys Mark W. Tanner and Peter M. Newman of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner & Weinstock, and Mark Frost and Gregg L. Zeff of Frost & Zeff.

Frost had represented plaintiffs Stephen and Cynthia Jurinko in a medical malpractice suit against Paul G. Marcincin, a dermatologist, for allegedly failing to diagnose Stephen Jurinko’s skin cancer.

After Marcincin was hit with a $2.5 million verdict in April 2002, he assigned his rights to the Jurinkos to pursue his bad faith claim against MedPro, as well as his rights to pursue a legal malpractice claim against his attorney, James P. Kilcoyne of Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

The Jurinkos filed both cases, and the case against MedPro went to trial first.

During a six-day trial in October, Tanner told the jury that MedPro engaged in bad faith by refusing to offer any more than $50,000 — instead of the full $200,000 of Marcincin’s policy — to settle the case.

The Jurinkos, Tanner said, decided not to pursue Marcincin’s home and assets, but instead to accept an assignment of his claims against his insurer.

In its verdict, the jury awarded the Jurinkos more than $1.66 million in compensatory damages — the difference between Marcincin’s policy limit and the “excess” verdict, including interest, against him, minus $1 million contributed by the CAT Fund — and $6.25 million in punitive damages.