Can I file a malpractice suit against Kaiser Permanente?
Not in the traditional sense. Kaiser Permanente has a unique system for handling medical malpractice claims. All claims must be resolved through arbitration. It's part of the contract you agree to when you sign up for your Kaiser health plan through your employer, or however you end up a member of Kaiser.
So, you cannot file a lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente and take the healthcare provider to court. Instead, Kaiser's Office of the Independent Administrator (OIA) will handle your claim and will manage the arbitration process. One important thing to keep in mind is that the OIA aims to have claims resolved through arbitration within 18 months from the date that the patient started the claim (through the sending of a demand letter).
The laws that govern the malpractice case are the same in arbitration as they are in any court-based lawsuit. (Learn more about how medical malpractice cases work.) But the procedure is different.
Generally, instead of going before a judge or jury, the two parties try their case before a neutral third party (the arbitrator), who decides whether there is liability in the case, and if so, what kind of damages (compensation) the injured patient should receive.
The "trial" itself does not involve a judge or jury, just the parties, their representatives and the neutral arbitrator. Many of the rules of evidence are more relaxed in an arbitration and the "trial" is conducted in an office or conference room. However, the process still involves a thorough presentation of facts and informed application of law.
by: David Goguen, J.D.