Kentucky SB 4 outlines reformed medical malpractice pre-litigation guidelines

Gov. Matt Bevin signed Kentucky SB 4 into law today, September 21st, among another slew of bills. SB 4 outlines the process for pre-trial peer review of medical malpractice cases. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank an average of 269 payments to medical malpractice plaintiffs per year. Most of these are from lawsuits or pre-litigation settlements. Given the complexiity of medical malpractice cases, they often warrant a fairly lengthy litigation process. The bill is an attempt to reduce the number of medical malpractice claims that actually go to trial, and increase the number that settle there-before.

Unless all parties agree to forgo the panel, the plaintiffs must file a proposed complaint with the Commonwealth’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The case will come before a panel of three doctors and one attorney, who will review the merits of the claim. Ideally, panelists are licensed to practice in Kentucky and are of the same specialty as the defendants. Parties select panelists much like jurors; any panelist selection can illicit a challenge from either party.

This process is designed to take about 15 months. Like all other civil proceedings, it is likely to take longer than expected. This is a major delay for plaintiffs seeking a speedy recovery, and greatly incentives earlier settlement.

Conceptually, this is designed to weed out claims that are a waste of the court’s time and healthcare dollars. It is more likely, that as with other medical malpractice related legislation, this will likely only serve to create further barriers to financial recovery for plaintiffs with valid legal claims.

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