In June 2017, a new law went into effect in Kentucky, which calls for “Medical Review Panels” to review medical negligence cases before they can be filed in the court house. Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester), who is also a physician, sponsored the legislation with the intention of limiting medical malpractice litigation in Kentucky. Now that SB4 is in effect, an individual who wants to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must first file a complaint with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which would then convene a panel to review the claim and decide if the case has sufficient merit to proceed to trial. There is a fee to file a complaint. If both parties agree, the review panel can be bypassed and the plaintiff can proceed to file their lawsuit.
USA Today reported that Alvarado said this new law will eliminate “frivolous, nonsense lawsuits” that “happen all the time,” which is a completely debunked statement which attempts to support the idea that there is a medical malpractice crisis in the United States, but that is just not true. Attempts at tort reform have been going on for decades while there is no evidence that the so-called crisis even exists. In a story in the Washington Post, Michael Matray, editor of Medical Liability Monitor, was quoted, “It’s a wonderful time for doctors looking for coverage, and it’s never been better for insurers.” The story reports that doctors are paying less for malpractice insurance than they did in 2001, and the rate of claims has dropped by half since 2003.
Prior to the passage of this new law, if an individual suffered an injury because of medical negligence, for example, if the doctor had misdiagnosed a disease, or a nurse made a pharmaceutical error, the injured party would have to show evidence of the following before they could pursue a civil claim for medical negligence:
There existed a doctor-patient relationship, which shows the doctor’s duty of care to the patient
- The physician or other medical professional violated the standard of care
- The patient suffered an injury
- The violation or breach of the accepted standard of cares was the direct cause of the patient’s injury
Kentucky Medical review panels
Now, in Kentucky, plaintiffs have a new hurdle to overcome in that they must present their evidence to the screening panel, which will decide whether the case can proceed to trial.
Kentucky joins 17 other states, which also have requirements that medical malpractice cases must be heard by a screening panel before trial. (NCSL.org)
The screening panel has nine months to reach a decision. If they have not reached a decision within nine months, the plaintiff can proceed to court. Filing a complaint with the screening panel tolls the statute of limitations until 90 days after the medical review panel has made their decision.
How is the screening panel composed?
The medical review panel or screening panel consists of one lawyer and three health care providers. The attorney acts as the chairperson of the panel, but does not have a vote. At the medical negligence trial, the screening panel’s opinion may be admitted as an expert opinion.
Regardless of their findings, the medical review panels do not prevent plaintiff’s from proceeding to trial.
Crandall & Pera Law is a premier medical malpractice law firm serving clients throughout Kentucky and Ohio. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer today, please fill out this contact form to request a free consultation now. You can call our Kentucky team at 877.651.7764, or our Ohio team at 877.686.8879.