The Connecticut Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved legislation that would significantly hamper the effectiveness of the state’s 2005 medical malpractice tort reforms.
In 2005, the Connecticut legislature passed a law that requires a person alleging medical malpractice to get a written opinion from a physician practicing in a similar specialty as the accused that supports the plaintiff’s alleged claim before filing their lawsuit. If the plaintiff does not submit the written opinion, or the opinion does not meet the specific requirements of the law, a judge can dismiss the case prior to the merits are even heard. These kinds of tort reforms are commonly referred to as certificate of merit laws.
If the update to the 2005 medical malpractice tort reforms currently being considered is signed into law, it would greatly ease the certificate requirements. This in turn would increase claims frequency, having an inflationary effect on Connecticut’s medical malpractice insurance premiums.
The debated update to Connecticut’s tort laws would increase the types of healthcare providers who can write the opinions (certificate of merit). No longer would the healthcare worker writing the opinion be required to be practicing in a “similar” specialty, but simply be “qualified.” Yes, it sounds like a game of semantics, but it would open the floddgat5es as to who could write the certificate of merit.
The 2005 tort reforms have been extremely successful at deflating the claims frequency in Connecticut. The number of medical malpractice claims has dropped in the state by 20 percent since the tort reforms were signed into law.
The new legislation currently being considered would not only ease the certificate of merit requirement, it would give plaintiff’s 60 days to fix any flawed certificate of merit rather than allowing the judge to summarily dismiss the claim.
Connecticut doctors, hospitals officials and healthcare groups, including the American Medical Association, have testified against the legislation. They argue that getting rid of the requirement for “similar” providers would open the door to faulty opinions being placed with the court. They also argued that it would undo any relief Connecticut doctors have received in their medical malpractice insurance premiums.
The bill is currently awaiting action in the Connecticut Senate.