(HealthDay News) — Nondisclosure clauses are frequently used in malpractice settlement agreements, according to research published online May 11 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
William M. Sage, MD, JD, from The University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues performed a retrospective review of medical malpractice claim files in The University of Texas System, for claims closed before (fiscal year 2001–2002), during (fiscal year 2006–2007), and after (fiscal years 2009–2012) tort reform implementation in Texas.
The researchers found that for the 124 cases that met the selection criteria, nondisclosure provisions were included in 88.7% of settlement agreements. All provisions prohibited disclosure of the settlement terms and amount. In addition, 55.5, 46.4, 26.4, and 9.1%, respectively, prohibited disclosure that settlement had been reached, disclosure of the facts of the claim, reporting to regulatory agencies, and disclosure by the settling physicians and hospitals, as well as the claimant. Compared with the 60 settlement agreements signed before the tort reform took effect, the 50 agreements signed after reform had stricter nondisclosure provisions, and were more likely to prohibit disclosure of the event of settlement, disclosure of the facts of the claims, and reporting to regulatory bodies.
“The scope of nondisclosure was often broader than seemed needed to protect physicians and hospitals from disparagement by the plaintiff or to avoid publicizing settlement amounts that might attract other claimants,” the authors write.