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Senate OKs Bill For Review Panels In Medical Lawsuits After Lively Debate Between Doctors, Lawyers, Others, by Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News


The Senate has approved a bill that advocates say will help weed out ‘frivolous’ medical malpractice lawsuits and speed up litigation for legitimate suits.

‘Right now, Kentucky has one of the nations most litigation-friendly environments, making our commonwealth a prime and profitable target for personal injury lawyers preying upon our health care providers,’ Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a physician and sponsor of Senate Bill 6, told the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Opponents disputed that claim.

The Senate passed the bill Thursday 24-12. It is not expected to pass the House.

The bill would establish panels of three medical experts, two chosen by each side and the third chosen by the other two, to review suits against health-care providers to determine if the case has merit before the lawsuit can proceed. Panel findings would be admissible in court but not legally binding.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed a very similar bill last year but it got nowhere in the Democrat-controlled House, and its prospects are similar this time. However, Wednesday’s committee meeting provided a detailed and lively explication of the issue, lasing almost two hours.

Vanessa Cantley, a Louisville personal injury attorney, told the committee that most medical malpractice cases are legitimate. She cited a Harvard University study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that concluded ‘portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown’ and reported that 97 percent of claims for medical injury evaluated over a decade were deemed to be meritorious.

However, Michael Sutton of Louisville, a civil defense attorney, said defendants win 80 per cent of medical malpractice suits.

Cantley said there are 2,700 deaths in Kentucky each year due to purely preventable medical error, but, according to the state Department of Insurance, fewer than 500 lawsuits a year are filed by abuse and neglect victims. . . .