Usually saying “I’m sorry” means good things for the person who says it. However when a physician says, “I’m sorry,” it could mean big trouble down the road in a court system.
With this premise in mind, a new bill is being considered in the Indiana House Judiciary Committee. The bill says that defendants in lawsuits could not be punished for apologizing to plaintiffs before a trial. Other statements of sympathy, such as those expressing condolences or support, also would be blocked from liability.
The bill would apply to practically all lawsuits that allege harm, ranging from car accidents to medical malpractice. Currently, Indiana law allows communications of sympathy to be used as evidence.
The Judiciary Committee discussed the bill for the first time at a hearing recently and Rep. Ralph M. Foley, R-Martinsville, the committee’s chairman, said he introduced the legislation after reading news reports that said physicians were often afraid to apologize to patients for fear of a lawsuit.
Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, is sponsoring a parallel bill in the Senate. Seventeen other states have similar laws on the books.
In 2004, Indiana doctors paid a record $104 million to the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, a voluntary malpractice insurance program administered by the state. The same year, patients filed 1,255 complaints against the fund, another record.
The Judiciary Committee referred the proposal to a four-member subcommittee to work out the language of the bill.