Procedural Justice Judgments of Alternative Procedures for Resolving Medical Malpractice Claims1


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    This research was supported by a grant to the first author from the Division of Sponsored Research at the University of South Florida. Some of the findings reported here were presented by Dr. Schumacher at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, 1991. We appreciate the helpful comments of our colleague Brian Cutler and an anonymous reviewer who reviewed an earlier version of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Norman G. Poythress, Department of Law and Mental Health, The Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida, 13301 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33612.


Procedural justice theorists Thibaut and Walker (1978) asserted that the Anglo-American adversary process is the most ideal for resolving disputes involving high conflict of interest. Sheppard (1985) asserted that this claim may be premature and argued for the investigation of more complex litigation models in procedural justice research. This survey study examined the procedural justice attributes of five litigation procedures for resolving medical malpractice claims. Three groups of subjects (psychology undergraduates, N= 87; first-year law students, N= 88; and jury venire persons, N= 65) read written descriptions of the Anglo-American adversary model, the inquisitorial model, and three hybrid procedures that combine some features of these two basic models. Subjects then rated each model on six procedural justice attributes. Analyses focused on ratings of the adversary model as compared to the three hybrid models. Results indicated that the adversary model was consistently rated higher than the hybrid models on only one procedural justice measure, voice. On the remaining procedural justice measures, the hybrid models were comparable to, and frequently rated higher than, the adversary model. The results are supportive of Sheppard's plea that researchers investigate more complex procedural models, and the findings are considered in light of Lind and Tyler's (1988) plea for the development of hybrid procedures that may optimize both subjective and objective procedural justice outcomes.