Massachusetts Medical Society: About The Medical Malpractice Tribunal

About The Medical Malpractice Tribunal

What is the Tribunal?

Massachusetts law requires that a tribunal–consisting of a judge, an attorney, and a provider (a physician, if the defendant is a physician)–review the preliminary evidence in every medical malpractice case to determine if there is enough evidence to take the claim to trial.

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 (that there is not enough evidence to proceed), the plaintiff must post $6,000 bond, or else the case is dismissed.

Tribunal proceedings:

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.

Why should I participate?

  • Receive AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.  Participation in the tribunal has been approved for up to 3 credits (depending on time actually spent preparing for, and participating in, the tribunal) and is eligible for risk management study.  Click here for more information about how to receive these credits.
  • Receive a $50 stipend per case.  We know it’s not much, but it is some acknowledgement of your contribution to the legal process.
  • Help potentially eliminate frivolous malpractice lawsuits. You could be effectively helping your peers avoid the emotional, financial and professional strain of malpractice litigation.
  • Maintain a robust tribunal system.  If a defendant asserts the right to a tribunal, it is important that the tribunal hearing be thorough and robust.  If the clerks are unable to find a physician to serve on the tribunal, then a 2018 Superior Court rule provides that the hearing may be held before a single judge. 

The Society believes that the tribunal system allows physicians to 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.

What is MMS’s role?

The Massachusetts Medical Society (“MMS”) has been charged with the responsibility of maintaining a directory of potential physician tribunal members for the Commonwealth since 1976, when Mass. G.L., ch.231, §60B was enacted. The statute lays out requirements for the medical member of the tribunal, and states that if the defendant is a physician, the MMS is responsible for providing a list of physicians who can serve on a given tribunal. 

MMS actively recruits and maintains a directory of physicians who are interested in, and available for, tribunal service, and generates a case-specific list. 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 directory 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.

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