On Nov. 10, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in favor of allowing Medical Review Panels for medical malpractice cases. The ruling was a stay of the Oct. 30 ruling by the Franklin Circuit Court, which determined that the new Medical Review Panel law was unconstitutional.
Medical Review Panels for Malpractice Cases
In early 2017, Kentucky lawmakers embarked on a course that was designed to lessen the insurance premiums for medical malpractice coverage throughout the commonwealth. According to lawmakers and medical professionals, the business climate in the state had become such that physicians couldn't afford to practice in Kentucky or provide affordable healthcare to average citizens.
According to the law, a medical review panel must assess all malpractice claims before they are permitted to go trial. So, when a patient feels that they have been harmed by a physician, dentist, hospital, care facility, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider, their complaint would first be heard by a medical review panel. This process can be waived, but it must be in writing and by agreement of both parties.
Medical review panels in Kentucky are comprised of three Kentucky physicians who have expertise in the specialty in question in the complaint. The chairman of the panel is an attorney who manages the case and provide both the plaintiff and the defendant a list of doctors from which each would select one physician. Next, those two physicians will pick the third doctor to complete the panel.
How a Kentucky Medical Review Panel Impacts Malpractices Cases
Once a complaint is filed, a medical review panel will have up to six months to review the case and deliver an expert opinion. The panel can decide that the case has no merit, that the provider's failure to provide proper care was a contributing factor to the harm, or that the provider failed to deliver proper care but that it didn't contribute to a negative outcome.
Whether the medical review panel comes back in favor of the plaintiff or not, the plaintiff can still take their case to court. The medical review panel's opinion is admissible evidence, so there is a good chance that the participating physicians will be called as witnesses in a medical malpractice case.
Opponents of the Medical Review Panel Process
If you've been the victim of neglect or malpractice from a trusted medical provider, the idea of waiting an additional six months for justice may not sit well. Unfortunately, the way that this law is written requires injured parties to do just that. Opponents of this law claim that these mandated panels undermine the justice system, can act as a deterrent to a plaintiff filing a complaint, and create an unnecessary system of bureaucracy.
In June, a Kentucky woman was the first to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. Tonya Claycomb filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The date of the suit was the same day that the new Medical Review Panel law took effect in the state - June 29. The plaintiff claimed that the requirements of the law would create an unreasonable delay and cause the plaintiff monetary loss and irreparable harm. On Oct. 30, the Franklin Circuit Court agreed and declared Kentucky's new law unconstitutional.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Kentucky
Unfortunately, the latest ruling from the Kentucky Court of Appeals puts us right back where we began with the new law taking effect on June 29. As it currently stands, anyone who intends to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in the commonwealth must first go through this state-mandated process. Unless this issue is elevated to the Kentucky Supreme Court, this isn't likely to change.
Regardless of the current system in Kentucky for medical malpractice cases, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. The new law doesn't make things easier on injured parties, but it also shouldn't discourage filing a claim when you have suffered an injustice. Contact the knowledgeable and experienced Louisville medical malpractice attorneys at the Slechter Law Firm now to discuss your options. Call us at (502) 384-7400 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation.