Billionaire Steve Wynn claims to have all the answers. A real estate developer by trade, Wynn seems eager to offer his input about how to run the country and its judicial system. For a man who has made a living operating casinos, he appears quite confident in his opinion of health care costs.
Of course, Wynn’s expertise in health care law is questionable. Although he rails against so-called “frivolous” lawsuits in an interview with CNBC, there is absolutely no evidence – NONE – that medical malpractice lawsuits contribute significantly to the cost of health care in the United States. Recent statistics indicate malpractice claims make up only 1 to 2% of all health care costs in this country. In many states, strict “tort reform” measures have unjustly limited victims’ ability to receive fair and adequate compensation, even while health care costs continue to rise. It is estimated that about 100,000 Americans die as a result of medical mistakes every year, to say nothing of those who are injured but not killed. A tiny percentage of injured patients and families actually file suit, perhaps as low as 4%. Of those, only 20% result in a financial recovery to the victim.
In Michigan, it is almost impossible to file a “frivolous” medical malpractice lawsuit. State law requires a potential plaintiff to file a detailed “notice of intent” to file a claim before he or she can file a lawsuit in court. Then, after waiting up to six months as required by the statute, the plaintiff must file an “affidavit of merit” – a sworn statement by a doctor with the exact same credentials as the defendant – with his or her complaint. If there is any defect in the notice of intent or the affidavit of merit, the plaintiff’s case could be dismissed by the court before a jury ever hears the merits of the case. In the event that a jury does award a plaintiff financial compensation for his or her injuries, the amount is subject to arbitrary “damage caps,” meaning the victim could get less than a jury considers fair and reasonable.
If Steve Wynn is so concerned about “frivolous” lawsuits, he could help matters by not filing any. In the late 1990s, Wynn and Donald Trump began what can be described as a multi-million dollar legal grudge match. More than a decade later, the two real estate tycoons are still slugging it out over their seven-figure investments. If you ask Steve Wynn, he would say that these are not frivolous matters. As for the ordinary people of modest means who are victims of medical malpractice and whose lives are changed forever? Wynn, who apparently thinks of himself as an expert in the law, would deny them their day in court. You don’t need to be an expert to realize that this is not fair.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.