Thursday, February 2, 2012

Defendant's referral service... or a conflict?

Here is an interesting story from the Baltimore Sun about a hospital that apparently has an agreement with a number of lawyers in the area to whom it refers cases when the hospital feels they might be sued for negligence.  What's strange about this?  That the person they are referring to the lawyer is the possible plaintiff.  As described in the article, "several medical systems — including MedStar Health, LifeBridge Health and the University of Maryland Medical System, which collectively run about two dozen hospitals — keep lists of vetted lawyers who will accept patient cases for lower fees, often with the expectation that claims will be settled quickly."

On the one hand, I don't necessarily see something wrong in a person recommending a lawyer to another who will eventually be their adversary.  Lawyers who practice in a particular area of law get to litigate against each other repeatedly, get to know each other, might develop good working relationships based on respect etc.

But this usually takes place informally and it involves individuals.  What the article is describing seems to be quite different.  It sounds like a system based on a preconceived agreement with the hospital.  It sounds like the hospital will refer possible plaintiffs to lawyers who have agreed with the hospital to help the hospital get the matter resolved quickly.  Looked at this way, it sounds very problematic.  There is the risk that lawyers on the referral lists (because they want to get more cases referred to them) may not want to push for the best deal for the patients.

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