On March 1, 2017, the Kentucky House voted 51-45 to pass SB4, a bill creating medical review panels to review claims of medical malpractice. The Bill, codified at KRS Chapter 216C, implements an additional layer of review by a panel prior to proceeding to a circuit court. The bill provides that a panel composed of three medical professionals and a non-voting attorney shall review a malpractice claim prior to submitting the claim to court. The filing of the claim with the Cabinet of Health and Family Services tolls the applicable statute of limitations until 90 days after the panel issues an expert opinion. The panel determines whether the evidence “supports the conclusion” that a defendant acted negligently. Medical panels have 180 days in most circumstances to render an opinion. The panel is not conclusive, but it may be admissible in court. The panelists are compensated at $350 plus travel expenses, however the chairperson may be compensated up to $2,000 based upon a per diem rate. The unsuccessful party is responsible for these costs and expenses. There is no indication that the panel hears evidence relating to monetary damages.
Proponents of the bill argue that the medical review panels help relieve providers of nuisance lawsuits. In turn, these supporters believe medical insurance rates will decline and medical growth will be promoted. Opponents of the bill believe that these panels create a roadblock to the courts and present an unreasonable delay to the civil courts for meritorious claims.
The bill is awaiting final approval from Governor Bevin.