Five New York City-based hospitals will test an innovative approach to medical liability reform under a three year, $2.9 million grant from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The participating hospitals are Beth Israel Medical Center, Maimonides Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Under the program, New York Presbyterian will focus on surgical errors, while the other four institutions will work on reducing errors in obstetrics. Institutions agree to provide early disclosure of medical errors with early offers of compensation to patients and families. Cases that can’t be settled outside the courtroom will go before judges who are specially trained in “Judge-Directed Negotiations,” with a curriculum based on the pioneering work of Judge Douglas McKeon of the Bronx County Supreme Court. That approach utilized by Health and Hospital Corporation institutions in the Bronx and Manhattan has reportedly saved as much $50 million annually in “transaction costs” associated with protracted litigation. The pilot project has the support of the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), New York State Trial Lawyers Association and the New York State Bar Association. Patients and families participating in the project still have the option of pursuing jury trials. According to NYSDOH, New York has the highest medical malpractice costs in the nation ($1 billion annually) and led the nation in the number of claims filed with the National Practitioner Data Bank over a 10-year period ending in 2009.