A Tennessee state representative who helped shepherd a bipartisan effort to limit frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits said he was glad the measure did not pass.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Briley, D-Nashville, said supporters of the medical malpractice bill exaggerated the need for limits on malpractice lawsuits.
“It was premature. It didn’t need to pass,” Briley said during a House floor session. “We didn’t need tort reform in this state.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, said he and Briley had some “philosophical disagreements” on the merits of the legislation. He said his top concern was that the threat of expensive malpractice lawsuits was keeping some specialized doctors out of rural areas.
“We have heard stories of counties that have no (obstetrician- gynecologists) and other specialists,” he said. “It has more to do with standards of care.”
Briley said he received information last Wednesday from State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Co., the state’s largest provider of malpractice insurance to doctors, that insurance rates were dropping an average 4.2 percent this year.
He also said there hadn’t been an increase in juries awarding large damages to patients nor was the standard of medical care decreasing, as tort reform supporters have indicated.
The Senate unanimously passed a similar bill last month to require attorneys to have an independent medical expert evaluate the merits of a case before filing suit. It also would have given defendants 60 days notice before a lawsuit was filed.
But the consensus fell apart in the House after Briley tried to attach an amendment that would have changed the rules for which medical experts can testify in malpractice trials.
After the House narrowly rejected Briley’s amendment, Overbey asked that the bill be sent back to Briley’s Judiciary Committee.
The action allows the committee to reconsider the bill next year, but without Briley’s support, it would face a tougher road to passage.
Read the full text of HB1993 on the General Assembly’s Web site at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us
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