Archives: August 2017

August 2017 Newsletter

Liability litigation threatens access to care in three states As medical liability reform continues to await consideration by the US Senate, the successes of state-based reforms are threatened by legal challenges that could limit access to affordable care. In Maryland and Michigan, personal injury attorneys are attempting to advance cases by filing ordinary negligence claims, rather than medical negligence claims, to skirt pre-trial reviews intended to weed out meritless lawsuits. In Kentucky, the constitutionality of a law enacted earlier this year on using medical review boards to assess the merit of a case is being challenged. In the Maryland case, a number of lower courts ruled that the proper procedure of submitting a claim with the Maryland Healthcare Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Office for pre-suit arbitration had not been followed prior to allowing a liability claim to move forward. The issue now awaits a ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, which could affect the efficiency in which deserving patients receive compensation. “We’re worried that, if this went through, it would be a significant roundabout of the system we’ve worked out over the last 20 years,” said Stephen Rockower, MD, President of MedChi (Maryland…

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Congressman Steve King defends his medical malpractice tort reform bill

Healthcare Matters announced today that its video interview of United States Congressman Steve King — sponsor of the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017— is available on Cunningham Group’s website. The Healthcare Matters interview of Rep. Steve King focused on the medical professional liability tort reforms contained in his Protecting Access to Care Act. The congressmen’s legislation would create a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, among other provisions that would preempt state laws governing medical malpractice lawsuits in the areas of statutes of limitation, joint and several liability, product liability and attorney contingency fees. In the interview, Rep. King also defended his Protecting Access to Care Act against claims by some of his more conservative colleagues that it violates the concept of states’ rights as well as argued why his medical liability reforms could and should pass independent of whether Congress succeeds in “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). About Healthcare Matters Healthcare Matters is an internet television program that explores the intersection of healthcare practice, the business of medicine and the law. Hosted by Michael Matray – editor of Medical Liability Monitor, the medical professional liability industry’s publication of record – Healthcare Matters investigates pertinent issues facing…

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Tort reforms facing legal challenges in three states

In contrast with the federal government—where a House-passed medical liability reform bill languishes in the Senate—many states have found success enacting tort reforms that better serve patients and physicians. But court cases are challenging reforms in place in at least three states. In Maryland and Michigan, plaintiffs’ attorneys are using what is described as “artful pleading” to skirt pre-trial measures that assess the merits of a complaint and its worthiness for going to court. And in Kentucky, a suit has challenged the constitutionality of its new law authorizing medical review boards to assess the merits of a complaint. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association has filed amicus briefs in the Maryland and Michigan cases in which patients sued for injuries incurred after falling. By claiming ordinary negligence instead of medical malpractice, the plaintiffs bypassed review processes. The cases have gone through the trial and appellate courts and are now before the high court in both states. Dispute-resolution office bypassed in Maryland In Davis v. Frostberg Facility Operations, patient Sheila Davis was admitted to a nursing facility following back surgery. At one point, her mattress came loose and she fell on the floor. A nurse placed her on a mechanical lift to help her…

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Rural America’s Childbirth Crisis: The Fight to Save Whitney Brown

Whitney Brown was in labor with her first baby when suddenly she couldn’t breathe. Convulsions shook her body. Ms. Brown’s blood pressure and oxygen levels dropped, and the baby’s heart rate plunged. Nurses at Saint Thomas River Park Hospital called obstetrician Dawnmarie Riley, who minutes later burst into the operating room in such a rush her hospital scrubs were inside out. Dr. Riley delivered the baby girl in an emergency caesarean section, and Ms. Brown was taken to intensive care. Doctors at River Park, the only hospital in a central Tennessee county of 40,000 people, didn’t know what had caused Ms. Brown’s seizure. But they knew one thing: The 28-year-old woman needed more than they could provide. What followed was a race to save Ms. Brown, a high-risk medical challenge that would involve frantic requests for transportation, an hour-and-a-half ambulance ride through mountains and the rain, and last-minute medical interventions as she tore through the hospital’s blood supplies. Since the start of the century, it has become more dangerous to have a baby in rural America. Pregnancy-related complications are rising across the U.S., and many require specialized care. For some women, the time and distance from hospitals with the resources…

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This was our government working as it should

The Aug. 2 news article “Lobbyists taking credit for writing bill to overhaul medical malpractice laws” claimed that lobbyists boasted about writing new legislation blindly passed by Congress without review. The bill was a modestly revised version of legislation that has been debated for about 20 years.  In that time, nearly identical legislation was the subject of repeated congressional hearings and debate. Lobbyists’ role in “drafting” the bill was merely to provide proposed fixes meant to address concerns raised by reform opponents — hardly an effort to “protect their industry.”  The overwhelming majority of the bill remained unchanged from what had been debated. When interested parties acknowledge that they were consulted about legislation, they should be applauded for their transparency rather than falsely accused of “boasting” or attempting to undermine our legislative system. Passage of the medical liability reform bill is an example of our government working as it should — legislators consulting with their constituencies, stakeholders providing feedback and those concerns being appropriately considered. To imply otherwise is disingenuous.

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