Large Plaintiffs Firms Say They're Becoming Choosier

, The Legal Intelligencer

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Furthermore, Casey said he noticed that since the introduction of the certificate of merit in medical malpractice cases, lawyers who previously "dabbled" in those cases are more likely to simply refer the case.

"As a consequence, I think that malpractice cases that have merit are now primarily being handled by firms that specialize in that area of law," Casey concluded.

Alan Feldman of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock & Dodig also said he noticed that there are fewer attorneys who do not specialize in medical malpractice trying those cases, due to the high cost of litigating them.

"Firms that used to dabble in malpractice don't anymore. They've determined it's too risky for them," Feldman said. "No one likes to do bet-the-farm litigation that they can't afford; it could wipe out a firm."

Feldman said at his firm a committee reviews every medical malpractice case to determine if it is worth pursuing.

"It's been good for us, we turn down a lot of cases, but it has allowed us to focus on the more valuable cases," Feldman said. "That has been transformational for our firm in the last half-dozen years."

Those cases that are turned down due to a potentially low financial return or that do not require the resources of a large plaintiffs firm, Feldman noted, are referred to smaller practices.

"By and large we don't have those $50,000 cases anymore. In fact we have downstream relationships with attorneys that handle cases that may be too small for us," Feldman said. "It would be hard to get us involved in a case that doesn't have seven-figure potential."

Thomas J. Gibbons of Gibbons Legal in Philadelphia said he often receives referrals from other attorneys, including those from larger firms.

"We get a lot of referrals, about 40 to 50 percent of our cases are referral-based," Gibbons said. "A lot of them are motor vehicle cases and limited tort motor vehicle accidents ... which few firms seem to accept."

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