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Law Rules

How we resolve our disputes

Entries in legal system (1)

Thursday
May282009

To settle or not to settle?

The story about the woman who died in a King’s County (New York City) Hospital psychiatric emergency room after waiting a day for service or treatment has raised some interesting questions about both our health care system and our legal system.  The woman’s family settled their wrongful death case with the hospital for $2 million yesterday.  Yet, more than half of the people voting in response to an online story about the case said the family shouldn’t have settled for that amount.  The story mentioned that the family still wanted a criminal investigation to proceed, apparently because there was some evidence that some hospital personnel falsified some records of the incident, which had been recorded on a security video camera.  The City accepted full responsibility for the incident, and the hospital fired several people and made changes to reduce waiting times.  My question is this: if the parties to the civil lawsuit are satisfied with the settlement, and there are other avenues available for addressing potential criminal issues, who cares whether anyone else thinks the settlement is not enough (or too much)?  The civil justice system succeeded in resolving the dispute to the apparent satisfaction of the parties.  Isn’t that what it is for?  This case does raise legitimate issues about how we place a monetary value on a life.  It also raises questions about how our healthcare system can and should deal with pyschiatric patients.  But those are issues for another forum.  As long as neglect and intentionally wrongful conduct can be addressed in the courts, let’s get on with improving our healthcare system by other means.