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Supreme Court to consider medical malpractice reimbursement law

A medical malpractice suit that will be heard by the United States Supreme Court may set a landmark precedent for how states are reimbursed for Medicaid expenses. Florida is one of several states that could be dramatically affected by the court's ruling next year on how states claim a percentage of medical malpractice settlement funds that victims and their families are awarded.

States often claim a percentage of medical malpractice settlements to recoup payments made to plaintiffs from their Medicaid programs. This percentage, which differs from one state to the next, can often mean reimbursements totaling millions of dollars.

The United States Supreme Court will be considering one state's Medicaid reimbursement law as it may be in direct violation of a federal law. The state is attempting to recover one-third of the total medical malpractice settlement awarded to a family, whereas the federal law limits states from implementing liens on "property", with the exception of medical costs.

The lawsuit stems from a case where a family was awarded a $2.8 million settlement on behalf of their daughter because of permanent disabilities she suffered at birth. The child cannot talk sit, crawl or walk and is legally blind and deaf. She has a seizure disorder and mental retardation.

The family sued the obstetrician, the hospital and others for medical malpractice, and was awarded a settlement for medical costs, pain and suffering. The state attempted to collect one third of the total settlement by placing a lien on the award, but the family challenged the legality of this in an appeals court, which concurred that the state's law was in violation of federal law.

Source: Charlotte Observer, "N.C. malpractice settlement to go before justices," Michael Doyle, Sept. 26, 2012

  • In many cases involving medical malpractice of physician errors, there are a number of issues that will be addressed. It can be difficult for victims and their families to go through this process alone. For more information on this subject, please visit our Florida medical malpractice page.

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