August 1, 2003
The scores of lawsuits filed in connection with the largest hepatitis C outbreak of its kind in the United States will probably wipe out Nebraska's malpractice fund. To date, 81 lawsuits have been filed against Dr. Tahir Javed, who is accused of being at fault for the unsanitary practices that caused 99 patients at his Fremont Cancer Clinic to contract the disease. One patient has died. Nebraska's Excess Liability Fund, established in 1976, is used to pay claims in excess of a doctor's malpractice insurance. About 3,100 doctors pay into the fund. It now has about $55 million, but is expected to pay out an estimated $46 million to settle pending claims -- excluding those filed against Javed. The fund pays any claim against a doctor in excess of $200,000 for a single case and a cumulative total of $600,000 in any one year. If the Javed case exhausts the fund, the doctors would be required to pay the remaining claims, which could potentially equal tens of millions of dollars, said Tim Wagner, head of the Nebraska Department of Insurance, which administers the fund. In the last session, state legislators increased the cap on malpractice claims from $1.25 million to $1.75 million. The state filed a petition Tuesday seeking disciplinary action against Javed, who returned to his native Pakistan last year.
07.31.03; Kevin O'Hanlon