Compromise Med-Mal Bill Between Doctors, Lawyers Advances in Virginia

January 21, 2005

A Virginia Senate committee has endorsed medical malpractice reform legislation that reflects a compromise between Virginia’s doctors and lawyers.

The measure does not limit awards for noneconomic damages — a feature physicians wanted to help hold down the cost of malpractice insurance. Instead, it seeks to head off frivolous claims by requiring a medical expert to certify that standards of care were violated before a malpractice suit can be filed.

Among other provisions, the bill also says a doctor’s apology for the outcome of a procedure or treatment cannot be used as evidence in a malpractice suit.

The bill was recommended by a study committee that worked with those affected, including the Virginia Medical Society and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, for a solution that all could live with. Sen. Kenneth Stolle, R-Virginia Beach and chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, called it “a fragile compromise.”

Steve Pearson, a lobbyist for the trial lawyers, said his clients came to the negotiating table reluctantly but were generally satisfied with the outcome.

Medical Society lobbyist Scott Johnson told the committee that “if everybody got a little sour taste in his mouth,” the bill is a good compromise.

The courts committee sent the bill to the Senate floor on a unanimous voice vote.

The bill is S. B. 1173.

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