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October 22, 1982

Settlement of Medical Liability Lawsuits Without Physician's Consent

Author Affiliations

From the Office of the General Counsel, American Medical Association.

JAMA. 1982;248(16):1980-1981. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330160032020

Medical liability insurance policies often contain provisions requiring the physician to consent to settlement of a lawsuit. Insurance companies routinely retain counsel to represent and defend the insured physician in medical liability actions. In the following cases, physicians have sued the insurer, the attorneys, or both, for settling lawsuits without the physician's consent.

Insurance Policy as a Contract  Courts generally look to the language of the insurance policy in each case to determine the rights and obligations of the parties. The court held in Aquilina v O'Connor, 399 NYS2d 919-921 (NY Sup Ct App Div 1977), that an agreement by an insurance company to allow the dismissal of a medical liability suit was not a "settlement" under the terms of the insurance policy, requiring the consent of the physician insured. The suit in question was brought against the physician by the estate of a patient. The physician moved for summary