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Side Effects: Outcomes in other states indicate that med-mal bill would have marked impact on the business of law (access required)

The Texas Trial Lawyers Association used to attract anywhere from 250 to 350 people to its seminars on medical malpractice. That was before Texas enacted a cap on damages in med-mal cases. "This past year, we had 31 people show up," said Jay Harvey, past president of the association that represents plaintiffs' attorneys. The public-policy issues behind medical-malpractice reform are a matter of debate. But judging from the experience of other states, it's apparent that the reforms create a lasting impact on the business of law, leading to fewer attorneys able or wiling to take on med-mal cases, fewer billable hours available for firms that represent insurance companies, with some attorneys refocusing their practice or entirely dropping a concentration they developed. If a bill now in the N.C. General Assembly becomes law, North Carolina would join 25 other states with some form of cap on damages in medical-malpractice cases.

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Are health courts coming to a state near you? (access required)

Buried in the White House's federal budget plan is a proposal to encourage states to reform their medical-malpractice laws. The budget proposes a total of $250 million in Department of Justice grants to "provide incentives for state medical malpractice reforms," $100 million for 2012 and $50 million for each of the next three years. It's not the first time President Barack Obama has mentioned med-mal tort reform.

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