Syracuse Medical Malpractice Lawyer Testifies Before New York State Legislature In Opposition To Executive Budget Proposal #131

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New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers (NYSATL) president, Anthony S. Bottar, a personal injury attorney with thirty-four years of experience representing injured patients and their families throughout the State of New York, told the Joint Budget Committee that the MRT "process was flawed and it led to a flawed proposal."

Anthony S. Bottar

Proposal #131 denies injured patients and their families access to justice.

Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo created a Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) and appointed 23 representatives from the healthcare sector to develop ideas to bring 2011-12 Medicaid costs down without compromising care for New Yorkers. No patients' rights representatives were invited to participate in the process.

As part of its charge, the healthcare-dominated MRT reviewed 274 proposals, one of which included (1) imposing a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering in New York medical malpractice lawsuits, and (2) creating a neurologically impaired infant fund (NII). Proposal #131 was embraced by the Governor's Office despite the fact that it denies injured patients and their families access to justice. When the New York State Bar Association, which is the oldest and largest voluntary state bar association in the nation, attempted to work with the MRT, the MRT accelerated its efforts by submitting proposals several days before the March 1, 2011 deadline which, in effect, frustrated any meaningful input into the process.

NYSATL President Bottar, a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer handling birth injury, misdiagnosis and wrongful death cases throughout the State, told the Committee, as a trial lawyer "I marshal the evidence for a jury or a judge and try to argue my case from the evidence. In that regard, and from that perspective, looking at proposal #131, the evidence is lacking. The fact that there is no evidence before you in support of #131 is not surprising given the process that was followed.”

Instead of engaging in public debate, or public discussion, the voting MRT members sat “(i)n the privacy of their office or their homes . . . with a clicker - a mouse - and ranked each of the proposals . . . They certainly did not have someone appear in front of them and explain how difficult it is to bring a successful malpractice case. There is this notion out there that it is simple. That all you have to do is find someone that has a complaint and then the dollars flow. The truth, the reality, is so far from that. The way we screen cases – you may accept 3 cases out of 20. And then you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on those cases. So, when we do this, when we represent someone who has been injured, we don’t do it lightly. We invest an enormous amount of time and money and energy. And we end up representing people who have genuine injuries.”

Bottar testified that the “cap on damages is discriminatory against the poor, (the young), the old, and against women who do not work outside of the home.” Rather than "remove the rights of New Yorkers," Bottar suggested that “patient safety is the place to start.” He noted that “the best way to reduce expense is to decrease the incidence of malpractice.”

After testifying, Bottar added “what should I tell our 4-year-old client's mother whose daughter is, essentially, a paraplegic due to medical malpractice? She will find little comfort in learning that the MRT believes that her child is entitled to no more than $9.00 a day for the loss of use of her legs and her inability to control her bowel and bladder. If she had been injured in a car accident, there would be no limitations on her recovery. Shouldn’t careless physicians, like careless drivers, be accountable for the full impact of their negligence?"

The Bottar Leone law firm has, since 1983, limited its practice to the prosecution and trial of cases concerning medical negligence, construction accidents and catastrophic and complex personal injury matters, including birth injuries, workplace injuries, roadway defects and structural failures. U.S. News and World Report and Best Lawyers ranked Bottar Leone a 2010 "Best Law Firm" for personal injury litigation.

Bottar Leone, PLLC
1600 AXA Tower II
120 Madison Street
Syracuse, NY 13202
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