A long-awaited compromise version of the medical malpractice reform legislation sponsored by Rep. Doug Overbey passed the House on April 3.
The House added one amendment to Senate Bill 2001, after which it passed the House with a vote of 93-1. Last year the legislation passed the Senate but hit roadblocks in the House and was deferred until this year. Overbey said he was pleased that overwhelming support was shown for the revised bill. It will now return to the Senate to be considered.
“There was a lot of hard work put into this, and I believe we have come up with a compromise that accomplishes what we set out to do, and something that both plaintiffs and defendants agree is a concern,” Overbey said.
The Department of Commerce and Insurance Annual Reports on Medical Malpractice have shown that more than 80% of medical malpractice claims end up in no payment ever being made to the plaintiff. While acknowledging that not all claims are merit less, Overbey said that a significant portion of them is filed without the appropriate amount of investigation and supporting documentation. The costs, both financial and emotional, are high for everyone involved when this happens.
“This legislation is a huge step forward in dealing with non-meritorious litigation,” he said.
According to a press release from Overbey, the legislation passed this week will do several things to solve the agreed-upon problems. The legislation sets up a process requiring pre-filing notification to each medical provider who may be named in a medical malpractice action at least 60 days prior to filing a complaint. It also establishes that all parties are entitled to the plaintiff’s medical records within 30 days of a request for the records, he said.
In addition, the bill requires that within 90 days after a complaint is filed, the plaintiff’s attorneys must attest that they have consulted with a medical expert who is competent to testify in a Tennessee court and has reviewed the medical records or any other pertinent information. Further, the expert must declare that there is a good faith basis to maintain the malpractice action. Likewise, a defendant is responsible for following a similar procedure when alleging that a non-party is responsible, he said.
“I’m pleased with the result-this will go a long way in reforming the process,” Overbey said.