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Supreme Court of New Jersey Rules for Doctors Without Malpractice Insurance

The Supreme Court in New Jersey has ruled that doctors do not have to inform patients as to whether or not they have malpractice insurance for a surgery they are recommending.

The high court handed down its ruling after a lawsuit filed by a patient against anesthesiologist, Richard A. Kaul. Dr. Kaul had been performing back surgeries in same-day outpatient operating facilities in New Jersey, even though he lacked the training to perform spinal surgeries.

Documents reveal that Kaul had lost his medical license after a series of complaints from patient of severe post-surgical pain.

The plaintiff in the case, James R. Jarrell was one of the patients who had lodged a complaint after Kaul performed a spinal surgery on him in 2005. Jarrell alleged that since the surgery performed by Kaul he experienced both sharp pain and the condition of “drop foot,” which caused him to fall. A medical expert testified that Jarrell’s condition was the result of Kaul having improperly placed a screw in Jarrell’s back and pinching a nerve.

Jarrell and his wife were awarded $750,000 in a malpractice suit by a jury. That amount is now currently at $1.1 million with interest. But the couple had been seeking more in terms of compensation in their appeal arguing that as Kaul should pay financial damages because of his lack of malpractice insurance at the time of the surgery.

The decision of the Supreme Court disagreed with the Jarrell’s unanimously. Patients are not allowed to sue their doctors in the state of New Jersey for a lack of malpractice insurance. The state does require doctors to get insurance or a letter of credit that affirms that the physician has substantial assets should a malpractice lawsuit arise.

The high court was split, however, 5-2 on Jarrell’s assertion that they had a right to be informed about Kaul’s lack of insurance in order to give informed consent to surgery.

Medical malpractice can be interpreted as a failure by a medical care provider, physician or other health professional to provide a certain level of care. At Bottar Leone PLLC, we have nearly 30 years of experience in investigating and prosecuting medical malpractice lawsuits in the state of New York. Contact us today for a free and confidential initial consultation to discuss the potential of your malpractice lawsuit.