Medical malpractice bill passes state Senate

By ADAM LONGO
6 News Reporter
http://www.wate.com

A political battle in Nashville is pitting state doctors on one side and trial lawyers on the other.

For years, the two groups have fought over medical malpractice reform. Now, legislation to cool the issue is moving ahead.

A bill unanimously passed the State Senate that tackles medical malpractice reform, but it does not cover the main point of contention between doctors and lawyers: putting a cap on jury awards in malpractice cases.

What the bill would do, according to Republican state leaders, is crack down on frivolous lawsuits.

Dr. Leonard Brabson is among a group of physicians statewide who’ve taken the issue to Nashville.

“There’s always somebody going on every Tuesday, which is a big committee day there,” Brabson says.

6 News was there last year at the tail end of one of those trips. There’s more to show for their efforts this year.

“A step in the right direction, not as much as we would like, but better than we had last year,” Brabson says.

“The system generally works, there are a few things that should be changed,” says attorney Richard Duncan.

Duncan’s firm handles malpractice cases. His firm doesn’t see the need for sweeping reform.

Duncan says in the last two years, only 11 cases in Tennessee have produced jury awards for a defendant.

“There are a lot of lawsuits being filed, and of course, there are many lawsuits that are settled,” Duncan says.

Brabson says it’s those lawsuits that are keeping doctors out of Tennessee because of insurance.

“They can’t recruit anybody to come because people don’t want to come to a state where the premiums are so high,” Brabson says.

This particular bill that passed the state Senate does two major things. It requires an attorney to have certification from medical expert saying a case has merit. It also would require that parties about to be sued have to be given advance notice.

The House takes up the matter in two weeks.
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