The MMS maintains a Medical Malpractice Tribunal List. The list
is a directory of physicians who are actively interested in and
available for tribunal service.
Information for Volunteers
What is the Tribunal?
Massachusetts law requires that a tribunal — consisting of a judge, an attorney, and a physician — screen any medical malpractice claim before it goes to trial to determine if there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed.
Tribunals screen out approximately 16% of all medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts.* data provided by Coverys
Since being established by statute in 1976, tribunals have reviewed preliminary evidence in every Massachusetts medical malpractice case. If a tribunal rules in favor of the physician defendant, the plaintiff must post $6,000 bond to proceed with the litigation. If the plaintiff does not post bond , the case is dismissed.
During a proceeding the plaintiff and his or her attorney are questioned and evidence is presented. Judges look to the physician member of a tribunal for clinical information and explanations. This is where physician members make valuable contributions, helping to weed out malpractice cases not supported by clinical evidence or fact.
View an informational video on medical malpractice tribunals
What is MMS’s role?
The Massachusetts Medical Society (“MMS”) has been charged with the responsibility of maintaining a list of physician tribunal volunteers for the Commonwealth since 1976, when Mass. G.L., ch.231, §60B was enacted. The statute stipulates that the Society provide the Superior Court Chief Justice with the names of physicians willing to serve on tribunals.
MMS actively recruits and maintains the directory of physicians who are interested in, and available for, tribunal service. This list is used by the Massachusetts Superior Court Clerks when scheduling tribunals, to contact possible physician volunteers and discuss their willingness and availability to participate on a given date.
Maintaining a directory of tribunal participants is an ongoing effort. We are currently seeking physicians to be added to this list of willing participants.
What is the Superior Courts’ Role?
The Massachusetts Superior Court Clerks when scheduling tribunals, contact possible physician volunteers directly and discuss their willingness and availability to participate on a given date.
Why should I participate?
Physician participation in the tribunal system is essential for the elimination of frivolous malpractice lawsuits. You will be effectively helping your peers avoid the emotional, financial and professional strain of malpractice litigation. You will also be helping to eliminate the plaintiffs bar argument that the tribunal system is slow because there are not enough doctors participating in the tribunals.
The Society believes that the tribunal system is a way physicians assist each other while learning more about the legal process. Your participation can help ensure the tribunal remains an integral part of the litigation process.
You Can Help Prevent Wrongful Malpractice Suits.
A tribunal hearing may last 15 to 45 minutes, and several hearings can take place on the same day, often back-to-back. A physician participant on the tribunal receives a $50 stipend per hearing. Physicians are generally not asked to serve more than twice a year for just a few hours at a time.
Based on physician feedback, we understand that the court clerk scheduling the tribunal will contact the physician a month or more in advance of the proposed tribunal hearing date; there is often flexibility as to the time and date. Before the hearing date, the court will provide a copy of the “offer of proof” which may include a summary of the legal complaint, medical records and legal arguments. Review time should be about one hour per case. Clerks will often try to schedule more than one case per tribunal.
If you cannot arrange a workable time with the clerk, you can decline to participate in the tribunal.
Videoconferencing as an added convenience:
To facilitate your participation, the MMS and the courts offer videoconferencing. Physicians can participate remotely from MMS locations in Waltham, Lakeville, or the Holyoke satellite location rather than traveling to Superior Court locations.
This feature makes service on a tribunal easier and more efficient. Instead of traveling to the actual courthouse, you may go to the nearest MMS office or satellite location.
Who to Contact:
If you would like to find out more about tribunal service, or
become a volunteer, please contact the Office of the General
Counsel, 800-322-2303, ext. 7242; Fax: (781) 893-9369; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.