Monday, April 24, 2017
Twelve states have passed asbestos transparency laws requiring plaintiffs in asbestos suits to disclose claims they have filed with asbestos trusts. In Missouri, such bills have been filed in both the House and Senate. What's the rationale for such bills?
“We know from the Garlock bankruptcy case, as well as many case reports and studies that have come out, that withholding of plaintiff exposure evidence is widespread and problematic nationally, including in St. Louis,” Mark Behrens, a partner with the Washington, D.C., law firm Shook Hardy & Bacon, told the St. Louis Record.
Behrens was referencing a nearly 4-year-old case involving Garlock Sealing Technologies in which it was alleged in a lawsuit that a handful of law firms representing asbestos plaintiffs in civil actions were untruthful about their clients’ exposures, telling different stories through filings with the bankruptcy trust system than were alleged through the suits.
The bills have until the end of May to be taken up by the legislature. The St. Louis Record has the story.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
I reported last week that the Iowa House passed a med mal bill with a general cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages, but an exception for cases of “substantial or permanent loss or impairment of bodily functions and substantial disfigurement.” The Iowa Senate, having already passed the bill without the exception, passed a bill with the exception on Monday. The bill now goes to Governor Branstad's desk. He is expected to sign it. The Des Moines Register has the story.
Friday, April 14, 2017
The Iowa House passed a med mal reform bill after amending it to include a "soft cap" exception to the general cap of $250,000:
The key to winning bipartisan support for Senate File 465 was an amendment that removed a hard cap on non-economic damage awards “in the most egregious cases,” said the floor manager Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion. It would allow juries to make awards of more than $250,000 in cases of “substantial or permanent loss or impairment of bodily functions and substantial disfigurement.”
The Senate previously approved the bill without the exception, and the two bills will need to be reconciled. The bill also includes a certificate of merit requirement.
The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier has the story.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The Iowa Senate passed a tort reform bill in an attempt to attract more physicians to the state:
Senate File 465 includes provisions governing doctor-patient communications after adverse medical incidents; capping limits on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $250,000; requiring a "certificate of merit" to screen out frivolous litigation; and establishing standards for expert witnesses. The Des Moines Register has this story.
These reforms, including the cap, are unlikely to significantly affect physician supply in Iowa, as I stated back in 2014.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Monday, March 13, 2017
Friday, March 10, 2017
Bruce Kaufman at Bloomberg has this piece: House Approves Sweeping Class Action Overhaul Legislation.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Both the House and Senate have passed a med mal review panel bill, and it is on its way to Governor Matt Bevin. The gist:
The proposed law would require plaintiffs to submit medical malpractice claims for review to an advisory panel that would review the case and determine whether it has merit or is frivolous before issuing a nonbinding opinion as to whether the case should proceed.
Trial judges would decide the admissibility of the panel's finding.
When our firm represented med mal plaintiffs in Virginia, a review panel law was in place. We routinely declined to participate in the process. When the results were provided to the jury our non-participation in the panel procedure was noted. The panels are a waste of time. A better way to reduce suspect lawsuits is to use a certificate of merit procedure. It is not perfect, but it accomplishes the goal of reducing frivolous suits more directly, and without an impact on plaintiffs whose suits are meritorious. Needless to say, it is far superior to caps for the same reason.
The National Law Review has the story.
Friday, March 3, 2017
The third of three in Bruce Kaufman's series on federal tort reform is here:
The House Judiciary Committee, by an 18-17 margin, approved legislation capping damages in medical malpractice cases. The federal legislation would cover individuals who are insured under Medicare, Medicaid, veterans or military health plans, and the Affordable Care Act, and could also impact people covered under COBRA or health savings plans. The vote surprised opponents of caps, who expected a vote in conjunction with the ACA replacement. STAT has the story.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Bruce Kaufman at Bloomberg has a 3-part series on federal litigation reform 2017. The first 2 pieces are available:
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
By a 66-30 vote, the House passed an amended proposal to put on the ballot a state constitutional amendment to cap non-economic and punitive damages in some lawsuits. It now goes back to the Senate, which had passed the proposal with smaller caps. McClatchy DC Bureau has the story.
Monday, February 27, 2017
The Arkansas legislature is considering a proposed constitutional amendment that would go to voters in November 2018. The version passed by the Senate would authorize a vote on caps on non-economic and punitive damages at $250,000 each. A House committee voted to increase those caps to $500,000 each. The amended bill must now pass both houses. Arkansas Online has the story.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The Southeast Missourian has a summary of all the reforms pushed in Missouri this year. Here is the bullet-point list:
Republicans this session have proposed dozens of bills under the tort-reform umbrella. Some of the proposals would:
* Add legal steps for people suing over asbestos exposure.
* Make it harder for employees to sue for discrimination in the workplace.
* Restrict injured or defrauded people from joining together in lawsuits against companies and clamp down on class-action lawsuits.
* Change the requirements used to determine whether a witness is an "expert" for non-jury civil cases.
* Allow juries to see only the out-of-pocket amount paid, not the price before insurance, for medical expenses in personal-injury cases.
Missouri already has passed laws supported by American Tort Reform Association in nine of 10 legal areas the group wants reformed, although the Supreme Court struck down some. Only Ohio, Texas and Colorado have done more, according to the association.
Monday, February 20, 2017
The Arkansas Senate voted 21-10 to send a proposed constitutional amendment involving damage caps to the House for further consideration. Given that 53 of the 100 members of the House are co-sponsors, it has a good chance of passing. If the House approves the proposal, it will be on the ballot in the 2018 general election. Arkansas Online has the story; more coverage at KARK.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
A bill to create med mal panels has, once again, been introduced in Kentucky:
The bill states that unless all parties involved agree to go directly to court, the complaint should be reviewed by an independent panel before it can move forward. The panel would consist of one attorney and three health care providers, with the attorney acting as the panel chairperson.
Once the panel is chosen, both parties may submit evidence to be reviewed. Two or more members of the panel must agree that evidence shows there was or was not malpractice.
The opinion will be issued within six months of the complaint being filed. That opinion can be used as evidence in the court if the case is able to move forward.
The bill passed the Senate in early January, but has made no progress in the House. Legal NewsLine has the story.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Friday, February 10, 2017
A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution filed last week in the Senate seeks to limit the amounts that can be awarded to claimants in civil actions, such as medical malpractice lawsuits. If Senate Joint Resolution 8 is approved by the General Assembly — and with a long list of co-sponsors, it seems likely to pass — it would appear before voters on the 2018 ballot. Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) is the lead sponsor.
Like the so-called "tort reform" measure on the 2016 ballot (which was disqualified by the state Supreme Court not long before the election), SJR 8 would place a cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages, meaning compensation for hard-to-quantify personal losses such as pain and suffering. The proposed amendment also places a cap on punitive damages, though that ceiling is more flexible. But SJR 8 also would give the legislature control over the rules of pleading, practice and procedure in the judicial branch, thus taking power away from Arkansas courts and giving it to the General Assembly.
Thursday, February 9, 2017