Litigation Lottery

by James Longo

July 29, 2002


"Another drink, Doc?" the bartender asked.

"Yeah sure."

"You look pretty glum. What's up?"

"They want eighty grand for malpractice insurance this year."

"You should feel lucky, I don't pull down half that much in a year."

"Yeah you're right. I guess I am pretty lucky, but last year I only had to pay twenty grand."

"That's a hell of a jump. Here's your drink."

"How much do you pay for car insurance a year?" the doctor asked.

"About seven hundred bucks."

"What would you do if it went up to three thousand bucks?"

"I don't know. I guess I'd find a new insurance company."

"And what if everyone you called had the same rapes?"

"Doc don't you mean rates?"

"When they go up four hundred percent in one year, they aren't rates -- you've been raped."

They both laughed.

"I guess I'd pay it, if I could afford to. If not I'd probably hit my boss up for a raise or push more drinks." The bartender paused. "Or go without insurance."

"The insurance industry that pays me isn't going to increase its rates to me by four hundred percent. That's for sure. It's bad enough that they want to tell me how to treat my patients."

He took a sip of his drink.

"I guess I could see more patients, but there are only so many hours in a day. Going without malpractice insurance, that's like swinging on a trapeze without a net for eight to ten hours a day."

"Why such a big increase in malpractice insurance?"

"The litigation lottery."


"The number of lawsuits have increased, because people think if something bad happens to them it must be someone else's fault."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. The bar has been sued once or twice because a patron has drunk too much and driven home. I have never seen anyone force a drink down anyones throat in all my years."

"So you think we need tort reform also?" the doctor asked. The bartender was quiet for a moment then he started talking in a thick Brooklyn accent.

"The lawyers and the insurance companies were in on this scam together. The insurance company says if you pay me, I'll make sure no one puts the squeeze on you. I'll take care of any litigious muscle that shows up."

The doctor smiled and nodded his head. The bartender went back to his normal voice.

"The deal was that the insurance would split the money with the lawyers. The troubles is we've had a huge increase in the number of lawyers, thus a huge increase in the number of lawsuits."

"The more lawsuits, the better odds of hitting the lottery," the doctor chimed in.

"I was thinking, if you fire enough bullets at the beast you're bound to bloody it."

"And what is blood to an insurance company but cash," the doctor said.

"And where are they going to get blood, they're going to squeeze the sucker, you."

"So what can we do about it?" the doctor asked.

"Hell if I know, but tort reform is only half the answer. Do you think the insurance companies are going to drop their premiums four hundred percent after tort reform?"

"I doubt it."

"By the way, I'm cutting you off. The bar can't afford another lawsuit, besides it's closing time."

The doctor smiled and paid his bill.

As the bartender turned to wash the glass he said to himself. "Eighty grand for a bill, I should have his problems."

· · · · · ·

James Longo is a registered pharmacist, graduate of Northeastern University in Boston. He has practiced retail pharmacy for twenty years. He is currently writing a novel about a man who has stopped taking his medicine and who is trying to change the world. Jim Longo has traveled to six of the seven continents, all fifty states and all the Canadian provinces. He has bicycled from Key West to Canada and all but five hundred miles of the United States east to west. He has also hiked extensively in the Rockies and two hundred and thirty miles of the Appalachian Trail.

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Published July 29, 2002
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