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Review Panels for Nursing Home & Med Mal Claims?

In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, there has been a proposal in the state legislature to create medical review panels that would be tasked with making findings regarding medical malpractice claims against medical providers, including those in nursing homes. These panels would review such malpractice claims and offer an opinion on the validity and efficacy of claims.

Yet Another Attack on “Frivolous” Lawsuits
The purpose of creating these panels would be primarily to combat “frivolous” or meritless malpractice lawsuits. Supporters point to potential positive outcomes with a reduction in meritless claims, namely attracting outstanding doctors and medical providers who would be more apt to work in a state where they are not under constant threat of malpractice suits. Though there is scant evidence that these changes actually provide those benefits.

The Speaker of the Kentucky House has come out in support of a bill that creates these panels, but has certain qualifications to that support. Speaker Greg Stumbo states that the findings made by panels in analyzing malpractice claims should not be admissible as evidence in court. However, Speaker Stumbo would agree to allow members on these panels to testify at trial since they would be subject to cross examination during that testimony. The jury would thus be allowed to hear testimony, but the conclusions reached by the panel would not go to juries for review and consideration in making their findings of fact.

A number of interest groups have expectedly come out in support of this bill and have exerted influence in the hopes of pushing it through the legislature and getting the governor’s signature. The Kentucky Hospital Association, Kentucky Medical Association and Kentucky Chamber of Commerce have all pushed the legislature to take on this bill and pass it.

As the linked article notes, AARP Kentucky opposed a similar bill proposed in 2013 that would have created malpractice review panels specifically for nursing homes, stating that there is no evidence such panels’ involvement in malpractice litigation results in improved quality of care for seniors. It is yet unclear what the scope of the latest bill would cover, be it nursing homes or a wider range of claims, or possibly all medical malpractice claims. This decision will likely hinge on whether lawmakers wish to curb frivolous malpractice suits across the board, or to do so in specific categories, such as nursing homes.

A coalition of similar interests in support of a review panel law specifically have proposed a plan in which review panels would have three members who are all medical experts. One party in a case would choose one member of a panel while the other party would choose the other panel member, and those two panelists would together choose a third panelist. This coalition’s plan would only involve opinions made by panels, and such opinions would come in less than six months so as not to delay the process, so cases could still move forward if a party wishes to do so.

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