Freedom from Liability through Passive Investing

A medical career can offer doctors many rewards and benefits, including excellent pay, prestige, and the opportunity to help others.

Unfortunately, sometimes in the process of treating others, things don’t go as planned, which in some cases can lead to malpractice suits. Medical malpractice can take many forms.

​​Here are some common examples of medical negligence claims:

  • Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
  • Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
  • Unnecessary surgery
  • Surgical errors or wrong-site surgery
  • Improper medication or dosage
  • Poor follow-up or aftercare
  • Premature discharge
  • Disregarding or not taking appropriate patient history
  • Failure to order proper testing
  • Failure to recognize symptoms

Any physician who has ever been sued for medical malpractice can attest to the costs of losing at trial or settling the suit – not only financially but professionally.

According to The National Practitioner Data Bank, a computer database of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that collects information about physicians, in 2018, the average malpractice payout – including both lawsuits and settlements – was $348,065.

No doctor wants to risk being stuck with a $348,065 medical malpractice bill or more, so that’s why every doctor buys medical malpractice insurance, which is not cheap and is among one of the highest expenses faced by medical professionals.

Annual premiums vary across locations and specialties. Location factors into your malpractice rates for two reasons:​

  • A state’s tort laws.
  • The incidence rate of malpractice suits within the state.

According to a recent report by the American Medical Association, OB/GYN’s carry the highest risk of any specialty with internal medicine bringing up the rear.

On one extreme, an OB/GYN specialist in Nassau-Suffolk County, New York, paid, on average, $214,999 in annual premiums. While, on the other, internal medical professionals practicing in Los Angeles, California, paid an average of $8,274 in yearly malpractice insurance.

It’s no surprise that the potential for malpractice suits not only plays a factor in what specialty aspiring physicians pursue but also whether an individual decides to pursue the medical profession at all.

The threat of liability not only keeps physicians up at night but also drives them to find alternative sources of income just in case they decide to one day walk away from their practice.

Among the alternative investment options physicians are presented with, commercial real estate is often high on the list for its cash flow, appreciation, and inflation hedging advantages – all backed by a tangible asset.

However, most physicians neither have the time nor the expertise to delve into commercial real estate. That’s why many turn to passive investment opportunities through private investment funds and private equity to participate in the commercial real estate class without getting their hands dirty.

Once a physician expresses their interest in investing in commercial real estate to their family, friends, and colleagues, the naysayers come out:

“Won’t you be personally liable if someone gets hurt on the property?” 

“What if the company you invest in defaults on the loan? Won’t you personally be responsible for the debt?” 

“What if there’s a toxic waste on the property and the neighbors sue because of the runoff?

I am here to put your mind at ease regarding potential personal liability as a passive investor.

​​For companies to attract capital for their ventures, they must afford their investors with limited liability – meaning each investor’s liability will be limited to the amount of their investment and nothing more. In other words, no matter what happens to the investment fund, the most any investor can lose is what they invested.

Limited liability is accomplished through the corporate form. The common shareholders of a corporation, the non-managing members of a limited liability company and the limited partners of a limited partnership all, enjoy protection through limited liability.

Without limited liability protection afforded to investors, companies would be hard-pressed to attract capital.

Can you imagine if GM’s shareholders were personally liable for the potential payout of the huge product liability suit currently in the courts over its faulty ignition switches that have been blamed for the deaths of 13 people?

The plaintiffs, in that case, are requesting $10 billion in damages. Do you know how much of that GM’s investors will be responsible for? Other than any effect on their share prices directly resulting from the lawsuit, the shareholders will be personally accountable for ZERO of that potential $10 billion verdicts.

Passive investors in a private real estate investment fund can have the comfort of knowing that no matter what liabilities the fund incurs in the form of debts or lawsuits, because of the corporate structure, these investors will never be personally liable for those liabilities beyond their investment capital in the fund.

So if the fund defaults on a $10 million loan and the company have to liquidate its assets to pay a portion of that loan, your investment capital may be used to pay back that loan. Still, you will never be responsible for any deficiencies.

Potential malpractice liabilities can keep a doctor up at night – what with the potential financial and professional costs as well as the insurance premiums to protect against those potential costs.

Passive investors, on the other hand, don’t have those same worries.

​​They can rest assured that once they invest in a private real estate fund, the most they can lose is their investment.

The U.S. corporate structure that encompasses corporations, LLCs, and LPs is what makes this possible and what limits the liability of passive investors.