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Lawsuit questions the constitutionality of medical review panels

Kentuckians with medical malpractice claims have been fighting an uphill battle since the rollout of a new law aimed to protect physicians.

In 2016, Kentucky passed a law that sought to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits against medical providers. The impetus of the Medical Review Panel (MRP) Act was the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance for providers. To cut down on the number of lawsuits, patients pursuing a medical malpractice case would first have their case screened by a panel of experts. The panel would then advise the patient, who would be able to move forward regardless of the panel’s advice.

According to the Courier Journal, the panels have seen significant delays.

MRP statistics

  • 531 claims filed
  • 11% of claims filed have been assigned to a panel
  • 3% of claims assigned to a panel have had findings issued

On the first day that the law took effect, June 29th, 2017, a Breckinridge County woman filed a lawsuit claiming the act was unconstitutional.

Details of the case

The woman’s son was born in Jefferson County in 2014. According to the Lexington Herald Leader, her infant son suffered “…severe birth-related injuries, including brain damage with resulting cerebral palsy.” The mother, believing her son’s injuries were the result of medical errors, pursued a lawsuit to recoup medical expenses. Because of the new law, she would have had to wait out the time-consuming review by the MRP.

Instead, she decided to sue the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services for denying her rights. Her suit claims that the MRP law “…discriminates against a class of litigants who, based on nothing more than legislative whim, must delay any judicial remedy while other litigants can pursue their rights in court immediately.”

Constitutional review

On August 8th, 2018, the Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Medical Review Panel Act. A ruling is expected later in 2018.

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