Lawmakers churn out tort reform proposals

Crain's Cleveland Business
Monday, December 2, 2002

The flap doctors made this year over high medical malpractice insurance rates certainly has grabbed the attention of Ohio lawmakers, who are grappling with no less than eight pieces of legislation addressing the complex issue.

Two bills would set caps on jury awards for pain and suffering; one of those bills, Senate Bill 281, sponsored by Sen. David Goodman, R-Bexley, was passed by the Senate Nov. 21.

Four bills introduced by state Sen. Eric Fingerhut, D-Cleveland, focus on issues that range from curbing frivolous lawsuits to providing doctors with a stop-gap insurance fund.

Two other pieces of legislation have passed the Senate and await debate in the House of Representatives. One would make it tougher for plaintiffs to subpoena internal health care documents such as incident and peer review reports, an action many observers think will curb lawsuits. The other would change the state's standard of joint liability to proportionate liability, making hospitals responsible for a percentage of any malpractice award commensurate with their actual fault.

. . .

Doctors and business leaders place most of the blame on high jury awards. But the Center for Justice and Democracy, a judicial rights group based in New York City, issued a report in August citing the insurance industry's pricing and investment policies as the real culprit. It reported that recent increases in malpractice insurance rates are the result of insurers trying to make up for underpricing their products in the 1990s and for losses in the stock market during the last couple years.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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