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Steven E. Pegalis '65 Authors Third Edition of American Law of Medical Malpractice

Adjunct Professor and New York Law School Board of Trustees member Steven E. Pegalis ‘65 is the author of the newly published third edition of American Law of Medical Malpractice, 3d (Thomson West).  The book provides a solid base of information, including citations from law reviews, medical journals and specialized medical and legal texts, to help attorneys involved with medical malpractice cases.

Mr. Pegalis is a senior partner and founding member of the firm of Pegalis & Erickson.  He has won a number of precedent-setting jury awards for clients, including:

• A $116 million settlement for a brain-injured child in a case against the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (Patel v. NYCHHC) in 1998.
• A $111.7 million award for a brain-injured child (Reden v. Wagner) in 2004. 
• A $35 million award in 2001 (Lopez v. NYCHHC.

A 1962 graduate of Queens College, Mr. Pegalis was the recipient of the Community Service Award of the Stanley Lamm Institute for Child Neurology & Developmental Medicine in 2003. 

Mr. Pegalis was drawn to medical malpractice for a variety of reasons.

“I’ve always represented the injured victim and many of the cases involved injured children.  It’s hard work, but emotionally it’s not difficult to be on the side of injured children,” he explained.  “But aside from the fact that these cases are very meaningful to the families of the victims, there also are important public issues involved.  If doctors and hospitals are held accountable, that is an important incentive for them to be more careful and more diligent and the public is safer.”

In recent years, some politicians have argued in favor of placing a cap of medical malpractice awards.   Mr. Pegalis opposes this idea.

“The system deals with the issue of settlement size through trial and appellate judges,” he said.  “Due process and legal protection are built into the system.”

In his many years of practice, Mr. Pegalis said, “medicine has changed, but the basic principles of law and the basic issues are similar.”

“A very respected doctor told me that in the last five years, there have been more advances made in the ability to get good medical results than in the previous 45 years,” Mr. Pegalis said.  “Liability follows capability, but increases in capability have not led to more law suits.  To me this means the system works.”

Law students interested in specializing in medical malpractice need to know both the law and medicine,”  Mr. Pegalis said.   They also need to understand the difference between a problem and a crisis.

“When a child is disabled due to an injury, that is a crisis,” he explained.  “When doctors complain that their medical malpractice insurance is too high, that is a problem.”

Mr. Pegalis has many memories of his time as a student at New York Law School, but one is especially unforgettable.

“I was married on May 24, 1964,” he said.  “That was supposed to be the weekend after finals during my second year, but the Law School changed its schedule and that became the weekend before my finals.  I spent my honeymoon studying and taking exams.  Now, it’s 41 years later and my wife is still stuck with me!”