side note: This is a significant court decision against the requirement of certificates of merit prior to filing a court claim.
The Washington State Supreme Court overturned a law that required victims of medical malpractice to submit a certificate of merit from a medical expert in the same field as each health care defendant named in a lawsuit. The certificate requirement, imposed on patients by the Washington State Legislature in 2006, significantly limited patients’ access to the courts, including a Washington woman whose ovarian cancer went undiagnosed for years.
In 2007, Perey Law Group filed suit against the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center on behalf of Kimmie Putman, claiming her doctors’ failure to promptly diagnose her ovarian cancer eliminated her opportunity for early treatment and she now only has a 40 percent likelihood of surviving the next five years.
When Putman filed her lawsuit, the trial court dismissed a portion of the claim because Putman did not file a certificate of merit for a clinic employee who was not a named defendant in her lawsuit.
Putman filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, which led to the ruling.
In a majority opinion, the Court ruled that the certificate of merit requirement violates the Washington constitution on two bases – it violates separation of powers between the legislature and judiciary branches and secondly, it blocks medical malpractice victims from access to the courts.
“The certificate of merit requirement essentially asked victims to present evidence before a case even reached the discovery process,” said Ron Perey, the attorney representing Putman. “The requirement put a burden on victims and elevated doctors and hospitals above the law, making them untouchable to many injured patients.”