Resolving Medical Malpractice Cases in Health Courts - An Alternative to the Current Tort System

Designing a Reliable System of Medical Justice

From December 2004 to September 2009, Common Good Institute staff and researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health developed and promoted an administrative alternative—called health courts—to the current tort system for resolving medical malpractice cases.

Instead of juries, health courts would use specially trained judges supported by neutral medical experts to rule on medical injury claims and determine patient compensation. Proponents contend that such a system would be an improvement for both patients and providers and for the quality and safety of medical care overall.

Common Good staff and Harvard researchers worked independently, but communicated regularly, to flesh out the health court concept, research issues critical to the proposal’s viability and disseminate information to stakeholders and policy-makers. The project also included an effort to establish pilot health courts in seven states.

Key Results:

  • Health courts advanced from an idea to a structured model, with research to support key provisions and address questions about this approach.
  • Alternatives to traditional liability mechanisms generated media attention and policy and legislative proposals. While not entirely the direct result of project activities, health courts gained prominence in these discussions.
  • Stakeholders in seven states produced health court proposals, although none had implemented a pilot as of April 2010, when this report was prepared.