N.H. Med-Mal Reform Dies in Legislature

May 24, 2004

Though worried that medical malpractice insurance is driving doctors from the state and from specialties like obstetrics, New Hampshire lawmakers last week failed to agree on legislation to address the problem.

The House and the Senate had different versions of a bill to establish medical review panels. Those panels, made up of a judge, a doctor and a lawyer, would hear evidence in malpractice cases and determine whether a doctor was negligent.

What divided the House and Senate was if and how that finding would be given to a jury if the case went to trial.

The Senate version mirrored a law in Maine, which requires the panel’s finding be presented to the jury. The House version would give the losing party a choice whether to let the finding go to the jury or agree to pay legal fees for the prevailing side.

The goal in both bills was to reduce malpractice premiums. Sen. John Gallus said Maine saw a 40 percent drop in malpractice insurance rates after its law was enacted.

The bill still could be revived if all parties agreed before the legislative session ends this week.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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