Developing a Class Action Case

A Starting Point For User Research

 The Hospital Price Comparison chart was used by our attorneys in public outreach meetings to explain to concerned citizens and potential class members why we were suing the hospital.  
I attended so that I could observe the reactions of the group to my exhibits and the attorneys’ overall story.  
This was very early on in the case so we had many questions. (e.g. How do people that rely on the hospital feel about us suing the hospital?  Do they currently think prices are fair? Do they expect prices to be fair?  Are they more responsive to cost based arguments or market comparisons?  Since this lawsuit only involves people without insurance, how do people with insurance feel about it?)

Approach to a Flexible, Granular Design

One difference between discovery in product development and discovery in civil litigation is that in civil litigation, rather than a cooperative flow of information from a strategic partnership, the exchange is between two parties at odds with each other. This often means that when it comes to data, you will get it in as inconvenient way as possible.
In this case, we received the bulk of our data in a non-tabular report format broken up over multiple text files.
My first task was to analyze this data and develop a strategy of how to ingest it into a readily accessible format. It was clear that we would have the best access to the data if it were brought into a relational database.
My general approach to deciding what data to collect and how to parse it was to look first for the easy wins. Anything that could be brought in easily with bulk operations would come in. Then I made a list of the data that wouldn’t be easily parsed so that I could consult with the attorneys on the case to determine how important the other data was and whether it was worth the extra effort to bring in at this juncture. The figure below shows how I ended up parsing and ingesting the data.

Class Definitions Flow Chart

This flow chart was used in court to summarize how the class members would be split up based on the court certified methodology.  The methodology itself was co-developed by myself, Loralee(one of the lawyers), and a Health care consulting firm Dobson and Davanzo.  I worked with Loralee to characterize the data we had available and to roughly develop a method that was both a fair and possible way of assigning damages to each individual.  Dobson and Davanzo used their expertise in healthcare economics to analyze the market and some internal metrics of  the hospital to further develop the methodology and determine the “magic” number, 1.647, that would be used to readjust the billed charges.  We also used the flow chart as a deliverable to make sure we were on the same page with the consulting firm.