State lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would help line the pockets of attorneys representing clients in medical malpractice lawsuits, The Post has learned.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Charles Lavine (D-Nassau) and State Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), would increase the tier of contingency fees that attorneys can collect in such cases from clients who normally oppose hospitals and nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
“The move makes it easier for attorneys to take on these cases,” Lavine said, noting that the lawsuits are often complex and expensive to process.
But trade groups representing hospitals and businesses said the bill – which will be introduced towards the end of the Albany legislature on June 2 – is just a money grab from trial lawyers and their allies.
“With other wealthy bills that Albany trial attorneys are pushing through, they can at least cynically argue that they also have their plaintiffs’ interests in mind, but not theirs. This bill benefits trial attorneys and no one else,” said Brian Conway, spokesman for the Greater New York Hospital Association, which issued a memo opposing the bill.
GNYHA cites data showing that New York leads the nation with medical malpractice payouts totaling $37.04 per capita, with New Jersey a distant second at $28.92 per capita.
In medical malpractice cases, lawyers are not paid in advance by the client, but receive a sliding fee based on the amount achieved for a settlement or judgment. The fees have not changed since 1985, according to lawmakers behind the bill.
The proposed legislation would allow attorneys to accept one-third of the first $500,000 recovered in medical malpractice settlements or judgments, up from the first $250,000 under the current law.
The scale would also be adjusted to 30% instead of 25% of the next $500,000; 25% instead of 20% off the next $500,000 over $1 million and 20% instead of 15% off any amount over $1.5 million.
Attorneys could also demand even higher fees from the court or plaintiff under the proposed law.
Lawsuit Reform Alliance director Tom Stebbins said: “These bills have nothing to do with justice, everything to do with enriching litigant sharks while circling the injured and vulnerable.”
“Higher ambulance chaser fees mean less money for the plaintiffs who actually file the lawsuits,” he said. “Why does the legislature want to take money away from plaintiffs and further enrich law firms?”
Lawmakers have become more sympathetic to legislation promoting medical malpractice in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They reversed a law passed at the start of the pandemic in 2020 that protected hospitals and nursing homes from liability for COVID-related cases and deaths.
Lavine and Bailey serve as chairs of the Judiciary Committees in the Assembly and Senate, respectively, and oversee legislation that affects litigation and the court system, including attorneys’ contingency fees.
Campaign records show that Bailey has received five donations totaling $2,500 from the New York Academy of Trial Lawyers’ Political Action Committee since the 2016 elections.
Both lawmakers defended the Attorneys’ Fees Increase Act, a bill that has been floating around episodically for years.
“It’s just a matter of fairness to people who are victims,” said Lavine, who led the Assembly’s investigation into the impeachment of disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In a letter accompanying the bill, Lavine also noted, “If the attorney doesn’t win the case, he doesn’t get paid.”
Bailey said during an interview, “Look at what you can do to update the statute for these times.”
In his memo supporting the bill, the senator said he wanted to make sure “victims of medical malpractice and families who cannot afford to pay an hourly rate for an attorney still receive quality legal representation that is willing to to assume the risk of working on a contingency fee basis.”
Bailey, who also serves as leader of the Bronx’s Democratic Party, said he would listen to objections to the bill before taking action. Lawmakers are expected to close the legislative session for the year this week as they seek re-election.
https://nypost.com/2022/05/29/ny-lawmakers-push-to-fatten-fees-for-lawyers-in-medical-malpractice-cases/ New York lawmakers are pushing to increase attorneys’ fees in medical malpractice cases