The Litigation Center of the AMA and the state medical societies is the voice of America's medical profession in legal proceedings around the country. Established in 1995, the Litigation Center provides physicians with legal assistance and expertise. Since its inception, the Litigation Center has participated in nearly 250 cases. Some of these cases have set important legal precedents, some have had broad, practical implications for patients or the medical profession, and some have simply been the right thing to do. All 50 state medical societies and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia are members. Specialty medical societies may and do request assistance from the Litigation Center.
The Litigation Center's docket of cases casts a wide net over the medical-legal landscape, including physician payment issues, medical staff privileges, medical liability issues, peer review, and scope-of-practice matters, among many other topics. Forums range from administrative proceedings to cases before the United States Supreme Court. At any given time, the Litigation Center has approximately 25 active cases.
Organization and purpose
The Litigation Center is an unincorporated association among the American Medical Association, the state medical societies and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, organized to coordinate litigation within the Federation of Medicine. Its purpose is to advance American Medical Association policies through the American legal system, including courts, administrative agencies, and alternative dispute bodies.
Support for cases
The Litigation Center generally acts in three types of cases. The first type is a dispute of general interest to the medical community in which a physician or group of physicians with a meritorious legal position confronts an adversary with substantially greater resources. Examples of such adversaries are managed care organizations, hospitals, and governmental bodies. The Litigation Center attempts to mitigate the disadvantage that the physician or group of physicians would otherwise face in the litigation. Litigation Center support can be in the form of a financial grant, in-kind services, or simply public recognition that the AMA endorses the legal argument advanced by the person supported.
The second type of case is a lawsuit brought by a state or specialty medical society that may be of particular interest within that state or for a limited area of medical practice. Examples are lawsuits concerning insurance industry practices, governmental funding or regulation, or scope of practice. Litigation Center support may be in the form of a financial grant or (with the AMA Board of Trustees' approval) joiner as a party to the lawsuit.
The third type of case is a lawsuit, generally at the appellate level, in which an important legal precedent could be established. In such cases, the Litigation Center will file a brief as amicus curiae (”friend of the court”) to advise the court of the legal and public policy interests that may be affected by the court’s decision and urge the court to decide the case consistently with AMA objectives.
Litigation Center cases must satisfy both of the following criteria:
- The Litigation Center position must be consistent with AMA policies; and
- The medical society of the state in which a case is to be filed must support Litigation Center involvement.
Additional selection criteria
It is impossible to create a definitive list of criteria for determining whether the Litigation Center will accept a case. The parties, merits, and case posture are all relevant. In addition, the following selection factors will be reviewed, as case applicable:
- Whether the legal issues presented extend or clarify the case law on a matter of interest to physicians generally;
- The precedential value of the case (i.e., level of court, jurisdiction, and nature of legal proceeding);
- The scope of applicability of the case determination (i.e., state, regional, national or specialty-specific matter);
- The type and level of assistance being requested of the Litigation Center;
- The likelihood of succeeding on the merits;
- The allocation of Litigation Center resources required by the proposed case;
- The contribution made by others, including the parties and the person who has requested support;
- The comparative value of selecting a particular case as against other pending and likely litigation requests;
- The extent of non-financial costs (e.g., whether litigation makes political and other options less feasible);
- The state medical society and AMA membership status of any individual physicians that the Litigation Center is requested to support (or oppose); and
- Whether options other than litigation are available
The AMA House of Delegates, the AMA's policy-making body, has enacted the following policies relating to the Litigation Center's role in assisting its members.
Brief description of certain cases in Case Highlights.
More comprehensive discussion of cases by topic in Case Summaries which can be searched by specific case name.
Executive committee members
Under the Litigation Center Bylaws, the Litigation Center is governed by an Executive Committee. One voting member is appointed by the General Counsel of the AMA and is a licensed attorney with substantial health law and/or litigation experience. Eight voting members are elected from among the executive directors and general counsels of participating state and District of Columbia medical societies. The general counsels need not be employees of those medical societies. One or more representatives of the AMA Board of Trustees also serve as non-voting members of the Executive Committee.
Joanne K. Bryson, CAE, Chair
Oregon Medical Association
Lawrence Downs, Vice Chair
Medical Society of New Jersey
Wyoming Medical Society
Colorado Medical Society
Stephen H. Johnson
MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society
Nebraska Medical Society
Leonard A. Nelson
American Medical Association
Patrick T. Padgett
Kentucky Medical Association
Stephen R. Permut, MD
AMA Board Member
Idaho Medical Association
Georgia A. Tuttle, MD
AMA Board Member
Litigation Center staff
Phone: (312) 464-4110
Fax: (312) 224-6924
Leonard A. Nelson, Director
Marilou Gleeson, Research Associate
Virginia Evans, Staff Assistant