Friday, February 6, 2015
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee sent to the full Senate a bill creating three-member panels to review claims before they can go to court. The panel's findings would not be binding, but would be admissible in court. The Senate has passed this bill before, but it has not passed in the House. The Glasgow Daily Times has the story.
Update: The Senate passed the bill 24-12.
The bill is a bad idea because it adds more delay and transaction costs to an already lengthy and expensive process, without resolving anything. Studies conclude the average med mal claim lasts about 5 years from event to resolution, with more money being used to run the system than to compensate victims. Review panels increase the time to resolution by adding another layer of procedure. They also increase transaction costs as lawyers and experts for both sides try to convince an additional decision maker of the merits of their case.
To the extent reducing frivolous claims is the goal, a certificate of merit requirement would be preferable: it is quicker and less expensive. Moreover, reducing the length and adversarialism of the process should be the focus. Review panels were in place in Virginia when I practiced. Most plaintiff's lawyers simply didn't participate. The result was admissible at trial, but so was the information that the plaintiff was not involved in the panel's decision. The claim was delayed, but at least it was not also more expensive.