Delivering Bad News: Market Responses to Negligence
One of the goals of the legal liability system is to ensure that sellers provide appropriate care. Reputation effects may also deter negligence. The little available research evidence suggests that reputation effects are minimal, however. We develop a theory tailored to an environment, such as medicine, in which sellers are of heterogeneous quality and face two types of demand—private consumers who exhibit downward-sloping demand (for example, private health insurance) and government consumers who exhibit perfectly elastic demand at a fixed price (for example, Medicaid insurance). The theory predicts that high-quality sellers who suffer reputation losses will see their caseloads shift from private to government patients, while low-quality sellers will lose government patients and may gain private patients. Combining individual patient-level data from Florida for the years 1994–2003 with physician-level litigation data, we find evidence that physicians experience reputation effects that are consistent with the theory.
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