Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Restrictions Ruled Unconstitutional

The Oklahoma Supreme Court yesterday ruled that limiting plaintiff's access to the courts in medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional.

From the article:

With eight of nine justices concurring, the court said the provision was a special law that unconstitutionally applies only to people filing medical negligence claims. People filing any other negligence claim don't have to comply with the provision, it said.

The law also creates an unconstitutional monetary barrier to access to courts because a person filing the malpractice lawsuit must spend between $500 and $5,000 for an expert opinion on the lawsuit's merit, the court said.

It also said the provision created a windfall for insurance companies that benefit from a decreased number of cases to defend but aren't required to implement post-tort reform rates that decrease medical malpractice insurance for physicians.

"These companies happily pay less out in tort-reform states while continuing to collect higher premiums from doctors and encouraging the public to blame the victim or attorney for bringing frivolous lawsuits,” the court's opinion stated.

The ruling grew out of a lawsuit filed in Okmulgee County by Monica Belinda Zeier against Zimmer Inc., and Dr. Theron S. Nichols over knee replacement surgery.

The trial judge dismissed the case because Zeier didn't have an affidavit from an expert that said the case had merit.

What will probably happen now is that the Oklahoma Legislature in its infinite wisdom will pass a new bill that says that all Plaintiffs in all lawsuits will have to obtain these expensive and pointless affidavits.

Hat Tip to Dustbury.


Ye ole conservative blogger said...

Perhaps Lawyers ruling on lawyers is somewhat a conflict of interest. But gosh we would have to ask a panel of lawyers about that would we not?
Our forefathers warned us ..

Anonymous said...

Hospital negligence is a hot topic in the news at the moment, with increasing numbers of cases being filed every year.

This is an interesting ruling and could change the way that some people view lawsuits against hospitals in the future.