Constant legal work led Rush to pursue mediation

With a hospital as large and busy as Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center, legal disputes are just a routine part of hospital operations. The hospital’s constant involvement in lawsuits led officials to pursue mediation as a better way to end the disputes.

Rush is a major tertiary care center with 978 beds and annual revenues of more than $638 million, according to figures provided by the hospital. The hospital is self-insured for professional liability and comprehensive general liability risks. The self-insured retention limits are $2.5 million per occurrence and $3 million for birth injuries, with no annual aggregate. There is an additional $55 million of coverage beyond the self-insured retention.

On a typical day, Rush is defending between 175 and 200 pending tort cases, says Max Douglas Brown, JD, general counsel at Rush. Ninety percent of those cases are medical practice. Another 30 or so cases will be filed each year. An average year will see Rush take about six cases to trial, with 80% of those resulting in a defense verdict or a hung jury, Brown says.

Why Rush likes mediation

Rush’s experience with pending trials is in line with other large hospitals in the Chicago area, but it nonetheless can be a terrible drain on resources. That, along with certain trends in Chicago litigation, prompted Rush to pursue mediation, Brown says. He cites these trends that also made mediation attractive:

• Most cases against Rush already were being settled without a trial.

• Jury trials in Cook County, IL, had become "extraordinarily long, expensive, combative, and unpredictable." It was not unusual for cases to take seven years to resolve in court, and additional years could be tacked on for appeals and post-trial motions.

• Juries were becoming increasingly susceptible to emotional manipulation and appeals to race, sex, age, and socioeconomic status.

• The Cook County tort system was becoming increasingly difficult for defense attorneys, with what Brown calls a decided bias toward the plaintiff.