Category Archives: West Virginia

April 2017 Newsletter

  Medical liability reform – an issue of Price With Tom Price at the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Congress likely to make systematic health care changes, chances for medical liability reform are stronger than ever.  So say several experts in the field. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted medical liability system scholars Michelle M. Mello, J.D., Ph.D., Allen Kachalia, M.D., J.D., and David M. Studdert, LL.B., Sc.D convey their opinions on the opportunities that lie ahead for proponents of medical liability reform with Secretary Price as an advocate. Citing medical liability in his confirmation hearings, as “a really difficult challenge,” Secretary Price has long been a champion of reforms that reduce medical lawsuit abuse. Acknowledging that “the liability system has well-documented problems, and its reform was omitted from the Affordable Care Act,” the authors support a way forward in the near term. While the current liability system is no longer at the precipice of crisis, Mello, Kachalia, and Studdert agree that “a period of calm in liability insurance markets is the best time to proceed with sensible reform.” The deck is stacked in support of reasonable limits on non-economic damages, with…

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March 2017 Newsletter

  New Congress makes early efforts in support of medical liability reform Just over a month after a new Congress and President were in position, medical liability reform appeared at the top of their agenda as two comprehensive bills were introduced. In late February, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Protecting Access to Care Act, a comprehensive medical liability reform bill introduced by Representative Steve King (R-IA). The Protecting Access to Care Act, H.R. 1215, is modeled after proven reforms already in place in Texas, California, and many other states around the country that have had a positive effect on increasing patient access to care and keeping health care costs affordable for patients and physicians. More recently introduced is the ACCESS (Accessible Care by Curbing Excessive lawSuitS) Act, H.R. 1704, which adds to the gaining momentum for liability reform in the House. President Trump has also expressed his support for medical liability reforms in his address to a Joint Session of Congress. “…We should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance,” President Trump stated. “The HCLA is pleased that the House of Representatives and President Trump recognize the need…

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Bill to change medical professional liabilities law passes state Senate

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…

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Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State address

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the Legislature, members of the Board of Public Works, justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and my fellow West Virginians. Forty years ago on a night much like tonight, I joined my fellow Legislators in this beautiful chamber as a young man and a recent college graduate just elected to the House of Delegates and wondered what on earth I had gotten myself into. Armed with little more than a fresh perspective and a passion to make my home state the best it could be, I was eager to take on the challenges I knew we faced as a state. On my first trip to the supply room to pick up my pens, papers and folders, I was stopped by the House clerk who wanted to know who the supplies were for. I said they were for me. And he responded, well, who are you? I said, I’m the new delegate from Logan County. I imagine my emotions and expectations were not unlike our state’s and our nation’s youngest lawmaker, Saira Blair, who finds herself in this Chamber as a member of the majority, working with a governor...
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W.Va. Supreme Court OKs State’s Cap for Non-Economic Damages in Case

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals stuck by the state’s cap for medical liability non-economic damages in its June 22 decision on a case filed against City Hospital. James D. MacDonald and his wife Debbie filed the suit in February after James had undergone treatment at City Hospital. A Supreme Court document states that MacDonald developed “severe muscle damage,” or rhabdomyolysis, after he was given a combination of drugs during his stay at the hospital. The suit alleged that the doctor shouldn’t have given MacDonald these drugs because of his medical history. A Berkeley County jury ruled in favor of the MacDonalds recommending a $1.5 million award for their non-economic damages. Non-economic damages refer to emotional distress or pain and suffering. These do not deal with physical damages, hence the term “non-economic” damages. West Virginia Code provides a limit of $250,000 on non-economic loss in medical lawsuits. This is extended to $500,000 in severe cases such as wrongful death or permanent physical deformities such as a loss of limb, the document states. For this reason, the court reduced this amount to $500,000. The document states that MacDonald suffered a “permanent and substantial” physical deformity, which is why he was…

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