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The Role of the Medical Malpractice Tribunal


Sustaining an injury as a result of an action (or omission) by a medical professional is a painful experience, and not just from a physical point of view. The financial costs of recovery can be catastrophic for those who are just trying to make ends meet. And, even more painful is the fact that the patient’s trust in his/her medical professional has been shaken to the core, and, in many cases, permanently. Retaining the services of an experienced medical malpractice attorney can be crucial to not only recovering some compensation for the costs to recover from the physical nature of the injury, but also to achieve some degree of closure in an otherwise traumatic experience. However, the Massachusetts Legislature has established a procedure by which medical malpractice claims must proceed through a medical malpractice tribunal before proceeding to the standard legal dispute procedure. Recently, a woman’s estate was awarded nearly $7 million in a medical malpractice matter after using a risky technique to correct a hiatal hernia, which, unfortunately, caused the patient to suffer complications and die. The issue presented to the tribunal concerned the proximate cause of the patient’s death, and, specifically, whether the medical professional caused the death by his use of the risky procedure. A discussion of medical malpractice tribunals, as well as its role in medical malpractice matters, will follow below.

The Medical Malpractice Tribunal

Ostensibly in an effort to reduce the amount of litigation involving medical malpractice, including frivolous litigation, the Massachusetts Legislature established the medical malpractice tribunal. Pursuant to the law, every action for medical malpractice, must be heard by a tribunal consisting of a judge, a Massachusetts-licensed physician, and a Massachusetts-licensed attorney. At the hearing, the plaintiff (injured party) presents his/her proof of the negligence caused by the medical professional, as well as the damages caused by the negligence. The tribunal will review the proof, and determine whether there is a legitimate issue of medical malpractice, allowing the matter to proceed to the trial process, or whether the proof is merely an unfortunate medical result. If the tribunal finds that the plaintiff has not provided enough substantial evidence of liability, the lawsuit may still proceed, but only if the plaintiff files a $6,000 bond, within 30 days, with the clerk of the court to cover the medical professional’s legal fees and court costs, in the event the malpractice case is not successful.

The Role of the Tribunal

As mentioned above, the stated intention of the Massachusetts medical malpractice tribunal is to weed out those cases which the tribunal has determined does not meet each and every element of medical negligence – specifically, that the evidence does not show a causal link between the alleged negligence of the medical professional and the injury suffered by the patient. If the tribunal determines that this link does not exist, it will not allow the matter to proceed to the trial process, unless the patient decides to offer a bond with his/her own money, effectively forcing the patient to have greater vested interest in the outcome. Thus, the decision for the plaintiff is not win or lose, but rather win or lose $6,000. As a result, the medical malpractice tribunal has eliminated approximately 15 percent of all medical malpractice matters filed in Massachusetts since its establishment. While the approval by the medical malpractice tribunal will not guarantee a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, there is at least an affirmation that there is a colorable claim for medical malpractice, and an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help to bring such a claim to fruition.

Seek Legal Advice

If you have been injured as a result of an interaction with a medical professional, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Leontire & Associates, P.C. have experience in dealing with medical malpractice issues, including experience dealing with the medical malpractice tribunal. We have the skill necessary to thoroughly analyze your situation, and will fight to get you get the maximum compensation you deserve. Contact our Boston office today.


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