An $8.5 million medical malpractice award against MDVIP, a leading concierge medical practice company, may open the door to more lawsuits seeking to hold concierge firms liable for errors committed by their affiliated physicians.
A Florida jury awarded the judgment Feb. 10 to the estate of Joan Beber, whose leg was amputated below the knee in 2008.
In 2008, Beber visited MDVIP-affiliated physician Dr. Charles Metzger, an internist in Boca Raton, for pain apparently caused by an undetected blood clot. Beber died of leukemia in 2012. The jury held MDVIP liable for the internist's missed diagnosis, even though it also was missed by a specialist to whom Metzger referred the patient.
“If this stands, it certainly muddies the picture of who's responsible for a medical mistake,” said Dr. Matthew Priddy, president of the American Academy of Private Physicians, a concierge practice trade group. If MDVIP is held responsible and “if something happens with one of their 800 doctors, that could be a game-changer,” Priddy said.
Prominent Florida plaintiff attorney Jack Scarola said in his closing argument that the Bebers did not get the “guaranteed exceptional outcomes” they were promised when they paid MDVIP's $1,500 annual fee. “What they got was marketing deception and valueless illusory promises because MDVIP was doing nothing to fulfill its guarantees and to keep its promises,” he said.
An MDVIP spokeswoman said the Boca Raton-based company intends to appeal the decision. “While we are sympathetic to the difficulties that the patient and family have faced in this matter, MDVIP believes affiliate Dr. Charles Metzger provided appropriate care,” she said.
The MDVIP network has nearly 800 doctors who offer a customized wellness and preventive-care program and limit their business to no more than 600 patients. Patients pay a membership fee to sign up with an affiliated physician at an average cost of $1,800. The panel limit is intended to allow doctors to spend more time with each patient.
Karen Terry, an attorney with Scarola's firm, said the verdict may bring greater consumer awareness about the promises being made by concierge practices, particularly MDVIP's promise to coordinate specialty care. “If you're going to guarantee or promise that to your patients, you should stand by it and do it right,” Terry said.