In any profession, understanding and learning from past mistakes is crucial to preventing future errors. Health care is no exception. For this and other reasons, the New Jersey legislature passed a law called the Patient Safety Act in 2004.
The goal of the act was to give doctors and hospitals the opportunity to conduct their own thorough, internal investigations into errors without worrying that the results of their investigations could be used against them in a later medical malpractice lawsuit. While this is beneficial for health care providers and perhaps for future patients, it may be detrimental to patients who were the victims of the errors being investigated.
A recent ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court was a setback in one family’s medical malpractice case. The parents of a child who suffered birth injuries in 2007 were seeking access to the results of the hospital’s own internal investigation into the incident.
Naturally, the results of this investigation could have been highly beneficial to the family’s medical malpractice lawsuit. Unfortunately, the Court sided with the hospital and kept the investigation results confidential.
To be clear, the plaintiffs are still allowed to pursue a medical malpractice claim against the hospital. And they will have access to other critical evidence, including medical records. The ruling simply prohibits them from accessing the results of the hospital’s internal investigation.
As this case demonstrates, medical malpractice lawsuits typically require significant time, in-depth research and an intimate knowledge of state and federal laws. For this and other reasons, it’s important to bring your case to an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
Source: NJ.com, “N.J. Supreme Court ruling protects confidentiality of hospital’s investigation in medical malpractice case,” Susan K. Livio, Sept. 30, 2014