NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 80, Number 2

May 2005
Articles

Unintended Consequences of Medical Malpractice Damages Caps

Catherine M. Sharkey

Previous empirical studies have examined various aspects of medical malpractice damages caps, focusing primarily upon their overall effect in reducing insurance premium rates and plaintiffs’ recoveries, and(to a lesser degree) upon other effects such as physicians’ geographic choice of where to practice and the “anchoring” effect of caps that might inadvertently increase award amounts. This Article is the first to explore an unintended crossover effect that may be dampening the intended effects of caps. It posits that, where noneconomic damages are limited by caps, plaintiffs’ attorneys will more vigorously pursue, and juries will award, larger economic damages, which are often unbounded. Implicit in such a crossover effect is the malleability of various components of medical malpractice damages, which often are considered categorically distinct, particularly in the tort reform context. This Article challenges this conventional wisdom.

My original empirical analysis, using a comprehensive dataset of jury verdicts from 1992, 1996, and 2001, in counties located in twenty-two states, collected by the National Center for State Courts, concludes that the imposition of caps on noneconomic damages has no statistically significant effect on overall compensatory damages in medical malpractice jury verdicts or trial court judgments. This result is consistent with the crossover theory. Given the promulgation of noneconomic damages caps, the crossover effect may also partially explain the recently documented trend of rising economic (as opposed to noneconomic) damages in medical malpractice cases.

Credit Where it Counts

Michael S. Barr

The Community Reinvestment Act and its Critics

Despite the depth and breadth of U.S. credit markets, low- and moderate-income communities and minority borrowers have not historically enjoyed full access to credit. The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was enacted in 1977 to help overcome barriers to credit that these groups faced. Scholars have long leveled numerous critiques against CRA as unnecessary, ineffectual, costly, and lawless. Many have argued that CRA should be eliminated. By contrast, I contend that market failures and discrimination justify governmental intervention and that CRA is a reasonable policy response to these problems. Using recent empirical evidence, I demonstrate that over the last decade CRA has enhanced access to credit for low-income, moderate-income, and minority borrowers at relatively low cost, consistent with the theory that CRA is helping to overcome market failures. I argue that the form of CRA’sbased approaches, on grounds of both efficiency and legitimacy. Comparing CRA to other credit market regulations and subsidies, I argue that CRA is a reasonably effective response to market failures and should not be abandoned. In sum, contrary to previous legal scholarship, I contend that CRA is justified, has resulted in progress, and should be retained.

Book Notes

Brown’s Demise

James Marvin Perez

All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education

We live in a nation where equality and integration have proven, and continue to prove, evasive. In 2005, despite the Supreme Court’s 1954 pronouncement in Brown v. Board of Education (Brown I), our public schools remain largely segregated, and there are few signs of improvement. Admittedly, African Americans are on the whole better off today than they were in 1954, but one only need observe any sector of society to realize that we have yet to reach Brown‘s full potential. Indeed, some commentators have labeled Brown‘s promise of equality through the desegregation of our public schools a “discredited goal.” Alas, Brown’s promise has become Brown‘s demise.

How Incentive Pay for Executives Isn’t–And What We Can Do About It

Meredith M. Stead

Pay Without Performance: The Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation

When conversation turns to business, a topic guaranteed to provoke heated discussion is the extraordinary compensation that top American corporate executives enjoy. Periodically, as some new pinnacle is reached, the public reacts with a fresh wave of indignation. A well-known example is the story of Michael Ovitz. Hired as president of the Walt Disney Company by his friend, CEO Michael Eisner, Ovitz left the company after just fourteen months, having failed abysmally at his job by most reckonings. Upon his departure, however, Ovitz collected a “golden handshake” of not only his annual base salary of $1 million for the remainder of his five-year contract, but additional earnings from stock options and a generous severance package, totaling approximately $140 million. Outraged shareholders brought a derivative suit, and seven years after Ovitz’s departure, the case is still wending its way through the courts-and through the headlines.

Criminals and Commoners: Can We Still Tell the Difference?

William H. Edmonson

Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything

The government possesses a variety of tools to control the populace. Obvious examples include the criminal justice system, administrative regulation, and taxation. Because these tools involve varying degrees of coercion, the federal government’s choice of tools in addressing a particular problem has considerable impact on citizens, both financially and in terms of individual rights.

A Useful Conversation

William Creeley

Judges in Contemporary Democracy: An International Conversation

The inherent premise underlying Judges in Contemporary Democracy: An International Conversation may be stated simply: When judges talk, people listen. The attention is entirely deserved; the power of the judge in modern constitutional democracies, particularly those with provisions for judicial review, is extensive. Concordantly, the authority of the constitutional judge long has been in tension with democratic structure, where the will of the people, expressed through legislative act, otherwise would be considered supreme. What power does the judge have to determine the contours of constitutional imperatives, especially if judicial interpretation represents a divergence from popular sentiment and legislative decree? How can she purport to have an exclusive interpretative license on what otherwise might be thought of as common province, i.e., the securing terms of a shared constitution? The questions of legitimacy surrounding the countermajoritarian potential of judges exercising (or merely asserting) the power of judicial review have become particularly pressing following the contemporary incorporation of forms of judicial review throughout Western European countries in the latter half of the past century. No longer a vestige of American exceptionalism, judicial review-and the accordant power of the judge-has become an integral feature of the modern democratic state.

Book Reviews

Bringing the People Back In

Daniel J. Hulsebosch

Review of The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review

Almost a century ago, Charles Beard’s study of the American Founding, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, set the terms of debate about constitutional history for the Progressive era and informed the way lawyers viewed the Constitution for even longer. In The People Themselves, Larry Kramer has quite possibly done the same for a new generation of lawyers. Beard took an irreverent, tough-minded approach to the American Founding; Kramer is deeply skeptical of the conventional way that the Constitution is defined and offers an alternative that puts ordinary people, rather than judges, at the center of constitutional interpretation. If there isĀ another Progressive era, it now has one of its foundational texts.