General Question

luigirovatti's avatar

Is the following information gathered from "Law & Order" accurate about a little-known statute that it's very important to know when suing a doctor for malpractice?

Asked by luigirovatti (2806points) March 31st, 2022

Season 3, episode 19. To sum up:

Along with the complaint, an attorney must sign a certificate of merit saying that after consulting with another doctor, he reasonably believes the case has merit. And if he can’t find another doctor to agree, he signs a certificate saying so. But think about it. How many PI attorneys (personal injury) do you know who would set foot in a courtroom without a backup? In other words, you can’t sue a doctor unless another doctor says he made a mistake. So enough birds flat together, nobody goes to court.

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6 Answers

SnipSnip's avatar

That is state law. Look in your state code.

Caravanfan's avatar

In the US anybody can sue anybody for anything if they can find a lawyer to take the case. No idea about Italy.

JLoon's avatar

Generally true in terms of existing law in New York state, and as a sort-of plausible plot device for L&O or other US tv dramas. BUT – as usual, the real details & facts are more complicated.

Currently only 27 states in the US have laws in place requiring “certificates/affidavits of merit” in order to file medical malpratice claims. Some of these statutes were passed by legislatures in states where conservative lawmakers argued “tort reform” was necessary to reduce the cost of healthcare, but some more liberal states voted in their own versions too.

Results so far have been mixed (studies show no real gain in lower cost healthcare), and in a few areas efforts are underway to ammend or repeal certificate of merit laws altogether. Part of the reason is the unfair result of denying the basic right to have claims heard in public before a judge, rather than sidelined by a rule not open to due process. One example is the 2009 Washington State Supreme Court ruling that found mandatory certificate of merit requirements unconstitutional :

So, does that mean the L&O storyline was bogus? No – but be careful assuming anything about actual laws based on what you see in fictional tv shows.

SnipSnip's avatar

TV shows are not to be used to learn the law. Some of the most basic legal standards are ignored in TV shows. It’s always best to find the written law of your jurisdiction and read it. You may not be able to understand some of it but you can use the internet to research that which you don’t understand. You think this is too much trouble? It’s never too much trouble to know the law by which you are bound.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

**The OP doesn’t live in the USA @SnipSnip !**

They live in Italy !!!

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