West Virginia liability laws withstand challenge

In West Virginia, the state Supreme Court of Appeals recently ruled that the landmark Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA) applies broadly to all services related to patient care, eliminating an attempt to circumvent the applicability of the statute.

The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued a new opinion that finds that litigants cannot characterize claims as “corporate” or “general” negligence in an attempt to avoid the provisions of the MPLA.

In the case, plaintiffs argued that the corporate conduct they were alleging in their amended complaint did not constitute health care services under the MPLA, and, therefore, it was not subject to the pre-suit notice requirements of the law.

The court ruled against the plaintiffs and their interpretation of a judicial precedent, maintaining that alleged corporate negligence claims fall within the purview of the MPLA.

Their explanation stemmed from the fact that “anchor” health care claims and “ancillary” health care claims that arise “in the context of rendering health care” are governed by the MPLA, and litigants cannot avoid its application with “creative pleading.”

The ruling was a win for access to care in the state, removing an avenue for medical lawsuit abuse for those who attempt to sidestep the requirements of the law. To read more about the ruling upholding the MPLA as passed, click here.

Emergency call: New Mexico legislature acts urgently on behalf of independent physicians

With a December 31 deadline looming, the New Mexico legislature moved forward on emergency attempts to fix a host of changes in a recently passed liability law that would have left independent physicians without liability insurance.

Insurance carriers have raised questions about how to interpret some of the definitions in the state’s new Medical Malpractice Act — much of which is set to take effect on January 1, 2022.

As a result, many have refused to provide insurance to some independent physicians and outpatient clinics, questioning how to interpret some language in the act to determine their legal liability.

A fix is making its way through the legislature, having passed the House and a critical Senate committee.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, called the attempt to amend the underlying bill “a critical piece of legislation to keep health care flowing to patients on the first of the year.”

Without action, independent physicians and surgeons would be unable to continue to practice at hospitals in New Mexico. Both chambers must now approve the bill with a two-thirds vote for it to take effect on January 1 rather than in 90 days.

To read more about the emergency attempt to revive access to liability insurance for independent physicians across the state, click here.

Tell Congress to support Good Samaritan legislation

Protect Patients Now needs your help in support of important, bipartisan companion legislation in the U.S. Congress that preserves access to care when it is needed most.

The Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 5239) and Senate (S. 2941). This legislation would ensure patient access to vital, on-site medical services in the wake of a federally declared disaster or public health emergency.

The COVID-19 pandemic, western wildfires, Gulf and East Coast hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes all bring to mind vivid memories of medical professionals rushing to provide immediate care to victims. Unfortunately, due to inconsistencies in federal and state laws, some of these volunteer health care professionals have been turned away or limited in the scope of their assistance in a disaster hot spot because of the threat of medical liability lawsuits.

Passing the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act and sending it to the president’s desk would help protect medical volunteers from meritless lawsuits during a large-scale disaster or emergency and ensure that vital health care services are available to victims.

Click here to urge your senators and representatives to sign on as co-sponsors to move these bills through Congress.

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year

As our medical professionals faced another challenging year and the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic persist, we remain in awe of the efforts of scientists, researchers, and health care providers who stand ready and willing to help patients at every turn.

We will continue to fight for liability protection on behalf of those who have served as the first line of defense against the COVID-19 pandemic for two years running — advocating to address the lingering liability side effects the pandemic has placed on our health care systems and communities.

On behalf of patients everywhere, we wish our readers and supporters a happy, healthy New Year and thank you for your support of liability initiatives this year.