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IS SYMPATHY FOR PLAINTIFFS ON THE WANE?

SHARE IS SYMPATHY FOR PLAINTIFFS ON THE WANE?

A law firm review of Chicago-area court decisions indicated Monday juries are becoming less sympathetic to medical malpractice claims.

Rooks, Pitts & Poust reported that between September 1992 and September 1993, 54 percent of malpractice claims for more than $25,000 were won by defendants, 2 percent higher than the national average.Attorney Wayne Plaza said in his firm's experience in the past 18 months, juries awarded only $10.2 million in 24 cases where claims totaled more than $83.2 million.

"There's no question that the defense is doing better," he said.

Plaza said he thinks the reason for the shift in sentiment rests with decisions by a growing number of companies unwilling to settle claims. Other experts have attributed the shift to a realization by jurors that high awards have an adverse impact on everyone else involved in the health-care system.

"Companies today have increased their stake in the outcome of suits, " he said.

"For example, they are doing more self-insuring these days. A company with a financial interest isn't necessarily going to be ready to immediately settle.

"Our strategy is to recommend litigation over settling when the client has a reasonable chance of winning or when the plaintiff is asking too much."