Associated Press (10.09.03) - Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Nebraska Department of Insurance officials are worried that a
medical malpractice insurance company might try to get out of
paying claims that could arise from the Fremont hepatitis C
outbreak. The department has asked a judge to rule that
Medical Protective Co. (MPC) must defend Dr. Tahir Javed, who
is accused of using unsanitary practices that caused 99 people
- including one who died - to contract hepatitis C at his
Fremont Cancer Clinic in 2000-2001. Scores of lawsuits have
been filed against Javed.
In documents filed in Lancaster County District Court, the
department says Javed's malpractice insurance policy set
limits of $200,000 per claim and annual aggregate of $600,000.
Nebraska is worried that MPC will settle a few lawsuits to
meet the $600,000 limit, leaving the state's malpractice fund
liable for the rest - potentially millions of dollars.
Nebraska contends that MPC must defend all the hepatitis cases
collectively. If that is the case, the state contends that
Javed's policy contained a provision that would increase the
total amount the company must pay collectively to $7 million.
Company officials declined to immediately comment.
The lawsuits against Javed are threatening to wipe out
Nebraska's Excess Liability Fund, which pays claims in excess
of a doctor's individual private malpractice insurance. About
3,100 doctors pay annually into the fund to defray the costs
of malpractice insurance. The fund now has $55 million, but is
expected to pay an estimated $46 million to settle pending
claims - not including any filed against Javed. Department of
Insurance Director Tim Wagner has said that if the Javed case
exhausts the fund, the doctors would be required to pay the
remaining claims - possibly tens of millions of dollars.
Earlier this month, the state revoked Javed's medical license
under a settlement in which he admitted to using unsanitary
practices at his clinic. Javed returned to his native Pakistan
a year ago, around the time when the first hepatitis cases