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May 19, 1989

Professional Liability

JAMA. 1989;261(19):2881-2882. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420190157056

In 1987, a story in the New York Times (February 9, 1987;sect A:1) declared that the tort liability crisis of the mid-1980s was over. The reinsurance market was softening, claims frequency was stabilizing across the country, and tort reform had been achieved in Florida, the "Beirut of Medicine." One year later, a report issued by New York State's superintendent of insurance revealed that medical liability premiums in that state, frozen for years at artificially low rates, were endangering the solvency of its liability insurers and recommended immediate premium increases of up to 80%.1 Florida's ceiling on noneconomic damages had been overturned in the courts, and insurers were nonrenewing more than 5000 physicians in the state while emergency department physicians were "on strike" (Associated Press, July 2, 1987).

In the absence of a focused understanding of the many weaknesses of the tort compensation and quality assurance systems in its home