R.I. Governor Carcieri Urges Medical Malpractice Reform

May 3, 2006

Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri is urging lawmakers to support his Health Care Tort Reform Act of 2006 which he says would bring balance to the state’s current tort system.

“Our current tort system punishes physicians and patients, creating increasing burdens that threaten our entire health care system,” Carcieri told the Senate judiciary committee.

“The Health Care Tort Reform Act of 2006 provides a series of practical changes that create incentives for faster settlements of cases and reduces the incidents of frivolous lawsuits. This will result in fair and timely compensation for patients and an improved climate for medical professionals that will draw them to our state and make those who already practice here want to stay.”

According to Carcieri, the tort system has caused medical malpractice insurance premiums to increase by an average of 40 to 100 percent annually in Rhode Island, forcing physicians in the state to discontinue certain procedures or leave the state altogether. The current system also burdens the courts, with an average medical malpractice case taking six years to be resolved, he said.

Rhode Island is one 21 states to be considered a “state in crisis” by the American Medical Association because of its tort system. The AMA says that patients lose access to care, obstetricians and rural family physicians no longer deliver babies, and high-risk specialists no longer provide trauma care or perform complicated surgical procedures.

The legislation (S 2774) is sponsored by Senators Leo Blais and Keven Breene. In the House, the legislation (H 7707) is sponsored by Representatives Bruce Long, Laurence Ehrhardt, Richard Singleton, Victor Moffitt, and John Savage.

The tort reform bill:

Places a two-year statute of limitations on filing a medical malpractice claim. The current statute of limitations is three years.

Requires a timely disclosure of expert testimony.

Caps non-economic damages at $250,000 and also the amount of attorneys’ fees that can be collected.

Requires timely disclosure of expert witnesses.

Establishes a pre-trial screening mechanism at the outset of the claim to determine if the case has merit to go forward.

Changes the rules on prejudgment interest to discourage plaintiffs from waiting for years before filing a claim.

Souce: Gov. Carcieri’s office

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