News Brief

Faster resolution of med/mal suits

A recent Supreme Court decision could mean faster resolutions for plaintiffs and doctors in cases involving patients receiving Medicaid-funded care.1

U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled that federal Medicaid law preempts a North Carolina statute that allowed the state to recoup up to one-third of medical liability settlements and tort judgments received by Medicaid beneficiaries who required subsidized follow-up care, regardless of how much the state paid for the care of the beneficiary or how the settlements were structured. The court said states are entitled to some reimbursement for their costs, but that the amounts must be reasonable.

“We’re very hopeful that this will lead to more settlements and less litigation in medical malpractice claims,” says William B. Bystrynski, JD, an attorney with Kirby & Holt in Raleigh, NC, who represented the original plaintiff in the case. “Fewer doctors will end up spending time in court instead of with their patients.”

In the past, states demanded so large a percentage of any settlement that it became impossible for plaintiffs to settle cases and still receive enough money to compensate them for their injuries and pay for their future care, explains Bystrynski.

The Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel argued in its amicus brief that allowing states to recover a disproportionate share of a settlement meant that they were asked to pay more to try to settle cases. “They said states were in essence calling on insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals to help fund the Medicaid program, and that was unfair,” Bystrynski says. “Ultimately, this should mean that it will be easier to settle malpractice cases, so parties will spend less time in litigation.”


1. WOS v. E.M.A. 674 F. 3d 290.


William B. Bystrynski, JD, Kirby & Holt, Raleigh, NC. Phone: (919) 881-2111. Email: