The Controversy Over Malpractice Lawsuits


Re “There Are Too Few Lawsuits, Not Too Many,” Commentary, Oct. 5:

Though Amitai Etzioni’s argument is compelling, he assumes that civil litigators, personal injury lawyers or ambulance chasers (pick the name based on your level of disdain for the profession) choose their cases from a somewhat altruistic point of view. Because often enough that is not the case, the waters are muddied from the beginning. Frivolous lawsuits and unwarranted settlements are a major part of civil law as it is practiced. And as long as threat and duress are part of a corrective procedure, its effectiveness is hobbled.

Tom Pula



Etzioni’s article brought to mind my family’s decision not to pursue a malpractice claim.

My wife broke her hip approximately 10 years ago. Her orthopedic doctor “pinned” the break and several years later, due to complications with this procedure, decided to replace the hip. After two years and three or four episodes of the replacement popping out of place, we decided to obtain a second opinion as to why this was occurring.

After a complete evaluation of the prior procedure, the new orthopedic doctor recommended replacement of the replacement. He stated that the ball of the prosthesis used was too small for the hip socket. He further stated that it was his understanding that the hospital where the original replacement was done purchased prostheses in large quantities in order to keep the price down. My wife received the largest in its stock.


The new orthopedic doctor replaced the replacement. We asked several attorneys if we had a case to sue not only the original orthopedic doctor but the hospital. We were advised that the upfront costs to obtain medical history and expert witnesses (presuming doctors would testify against one another) would be costly and that the liability cap would give us little if we were to prevail. We decided we could not afford the cost and, based upon the percentage of cases won by the plaintiffs, not worth the aggravation. So much for “too many lawsuits.”

Donald Shulman