Category Archives: Kentucky

March 2018 Newsletter

Bad examples: New York, Pennsylvania lead national liability rates Without reform to keep medical lawsuit abuse in check, examples of the inefficiencies of our nation’s liability system are emerging in several states in the form of increasingly large payouts. According to a recent survey by Diederich Health Care, a medical liability insurance and consulting company, New York topped the list for the largest liability payouts in 2017 with a total of nearly $618 million, with Pennsylvania second at $342 million and Illinois not far behind with $301 million. What do these states have in common? None have reasonable limits on non-economic damages in place, with liability climates that have worsened in recent years due to lawmakers who are more likely to push for changes that benefit personal injury attorneys rather than patients. In New York, 30,000 members of the Medical Society of the State of New York opposed extending the state’s statute of limitations on liability claims because it would increase their already high liability costs and drive more doctors out of the state. Unfortunately, the law passed, lengthening the statute of limitations from 15 to 30 months, beginning not when the error occurred, but the date at which the…

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Medical tort-reform bill moves to House

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Senate approved an omnibus medical tort-reform measure yesterday that would regulate everything from trial attorney fees, medical record copying charges and which malpractice lawsuits can advance in the courts. Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 20 would require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit. That’s a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit. A medical review panel opinion in favor of a patient would fulfill the affidavit of merit requirement. Senate Bill 4 from 2017 created panels of experts to review claims of medical error or neglect. If the medical review panel finds in favor of the medical provider, however, the patient would still have to get an affidavit of merit to advance to court. A second provision would impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. An amendment would set those caps at no more than 33 percent of any awarded damages. “Some will argue this is an infringement on the free market,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, who introduced the legislation. “I feel it is a protection against predatory legal practices in Kentucky.” A third provision is known as the “I’m sorry” clause. It would…

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February 2018 Newsletter

Show me liability reform A recent push for liability reform in Missouri could show patients how a reduction in medical lawsuit abuse can improve access to care across the states. Building on Governor Greitens’ emphasis on the need for changes to the state’s liability system, a new bill would bring an efficient resolution to those with legitimate claims. The latest bill, introduced by State Senator Dan Hegeman, allows physicians to address claims promptly by redefining the statute of limitations to three years. “Missouri has not amended the five-year statute since 1939,” Hegeman told the Senate government reform committee. “While five years may have made sense in an age when transportation and communication were more challenging, there is no reason today for an injured person to need so much time to file the action.” The shorter statute of limitations gives physicians peace of mind that any claims of negligence are addressed quickly, and deserving patients benefit from a system that better separates meritless lawsuits from rightful claims for damages. To read more about Missouri’s efforts to further reform their liability system for patients and physicians, click here. Sweeping changes to liability system would bring benefits to Kentucky Initiating legislation that would…

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Tort Reform Roundup: Kentucky & Missouri

In this edition of Tort Reform Roundup, we look at a pair of states considering some major tort reform initiatives. In Kentucky, a sweeping measure aimed at capping attorney fees on medical malpractice damages, has passed the State Senate Health & Welfare Committee and now awaits a vote in the Senate. Meanwhile, the state of Missouri is mulling over a proposal that would shrink the time for filing personal injury lawsuits. Kentucky The state currently has no cap on damages in any type of injury. State Senator Ralph Alvarado aims to change that with SB-20, a bill that seeks to impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. The limits in this provision would allow a lawyer to make $60,000 of contingency fees if their client wins $200,000 in damages, or $140,000 if their client wins $1 million in damages. Other provisions would exempt medical peer review discussions from discovery, require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit (a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit), and allow healthcare workers to express condolences to patients or families without fear of having those words used against them in a lawsuit. Alvarado has…

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Senate panel explores medical tort-reform bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A sweeping measure to regulate everything from trial attorney fees, medical record copying charges and how malpractice lawsuits are brought passed the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee yesterday. The legislation was described as an omnibus medical tort-reform bill by sponsor Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. Among its many provisions, Senate Bill 20 would require medical malpractice lawsuits to contain an affidavit of merit. That’s a document stating that at least one doctor agrees the claim has merit. A medical review panel opinion in favor of a patient would fulfill the affidavit of merit requirement. Senate Bill 4 from 2017 created panels of experts to review claims of medical error or neglect. If the medical review panel finds in favor of the medical provider, however, the patient would still have to get an affidavit of merit to advance to court. A second provision would impose contingency caps on attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. The limits in this provision would still allow a lawyer to make $60,000 of contingency fees if their client wins $200,000 or $140,000 if their client wins $1 million, according to the language in SB 20. A third provision would attempt to exempt medical…

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November 2017 Newsletter

Physician opinions: medical liability lawsuits and impact on care Holding strong opinions about the current liability climate, its impact on patient care, and the way to discourage medical lawsuit abuse, physicians weighed in on the way toward comprehensive medical liability reform. Surveying over 4100 physicians across more than 25 specialties currently practicing in the US, Medscape captured the prevailing thoughts of physicians who bear the brunt of a broken system that costs too much, takes too long, and undermines their relationship with their patients. With 55 percent of those taking part in the survey responding that they had been named in a medical liability lawsuit, specialists across surgery and OB/GYN practices were found to be most likely to be sued. Eighty-five percent of respondents in each specialty noted that at one point or another in their careers, they were forced to spend countless hours on defense preparation and in court for lawsuits, that, 40 percent of the time, took between one to two years to resolve. As a result, 45 percent of physicians report that the threat of medical liability lawsuits are on their mind all or most of the time – a driving factor in the practice of defensive…

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Court Stays Order Striking Down Medical Review Panel Law

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Court of Appeals has stayed a lower court’s ruling striking down a state law requiring a panel of doctors to review medical malpractice cases before going to trial. Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s Oct. 30 order prevented state officials from enforcing the law. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration asked the appeals court for an emergency stay until the case can be heard on appeal. The court noted 89 cases are pending before the medical review panels, and if it did not order a stay, the statute of limitations would expire on at least one of those cases. Bevin spokesman Woody Maglinger said the Bevin administration is encouraged by the ruling and is ready to resume enforcing the law.

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Judge strikes down new Kentucky law creating medical review panels

Dealing a major blow to efforts to curb supposedly frivolous malpractice claims, a judge has struck down a new Kentucky law creating medical review panels to screen such cases before they go to trial. In a ruling Monday, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd found the law passed this year by the Kentucky General Assembly is unconstitutional, because it restricts the right of people to plead their cases in court. “The effect of the medical review panel process is not the reduction of frivolous negligence claims, but rather, the erection of barriers to the court system,” Shepherd’s order said. “Those that cannot afford the additional delays and costs should not be prevented from pursuing their constitutional right to a ‘remedy by due course of law.’ ” Shepherd’s order bans the state from enforcing the law that requires a three-member panel of health professionals review medical malpractice claims before a lawsuit is filed. Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed the bill into law, and his administration touts it as “the first step toward tort reform” on the website of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which administers it. A Bevin spokeswoman said Monday the administration will challenge Shepherd’s decision. “We are…

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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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