A bill that would change current state medical professional liabilities law has passed the state Senate.
Senate Bill 338 would requires lawsuits against long-term care providers to be brought in the county in which the facility is located. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, is the sponsor of the bill. It has been sent to the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee.
“Currently, most of the cases are brought in Kanawha County because corporate headquarters are in Charleston or because a company has a facility in Kanawha County,” said Patrick Kelly, CEO of the West Virginia Health Care Association. “If the bill passes, the people who know the facility best, local citizens, will hear the cases.
“What’s happening now is that some of the facilities have a corporate office in Charleston, so if you have a case in the Northern or Eastern Panhandle, those folks have to leave their facility to come to Kanawha County. You can’t take an administrator or nurses out of the building for a long period of time.”
The bill also would define occurrence as “any and all injuries to a patient arising from health care rendered by a healthcare facility or a healthcare provider and includes any continuing, additional or follow-up care provided to that patient for reasons relating to the original healthcare provided.”
Kelly said a law firm argued that the Medical Professional Liability Act caps can apply multiple times for the same plaintiff if multiple, separate lawsuits are brought. He said adding this new definition should stop this, and he said this provision applies to all health care providers.
Kelly also said the bill would change the statute of limitations to one year, for long-term care providers.
The president of a group for state trial lawyers said SB 338 is a negotiated bill.
“Sen. Charles Trump brought key stakeholders to the table to put together this compromise version,” said Jane Peak, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.
The executive director of a legal reform group praised the bill.
“We applaud the bipartisan coalition of Senators that supported Senate Bill 338, a reform that will close a loophole that some personal injury lawyers have abused to bypass provisions of the Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA),” said Roman Stauffer, Executive Director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. “The changes made to the MPLA in Senate Bill 338 will strengthen our medical liability laws and ensure that West Virginians will have access to affordable health care.
“It will prevent greedy personal injury lawyers from filing abusive lawsuits, which only increase the cost of health care for all West Virginians. We hope that members of the House of Delegates will follow the State Senate’s lead and pass this much-needed reform with strong bi-partisan support.”