Ashli Watts, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Kentucky Chamber and the Chair of the Partnership for Commonsense Justice, discussed the need for comprehensive tort reform on the program Monday night, moderated by Renee Shaw. Watts stated that when businesses look to locate in Kentucky, they not only look at workforce, tax policy, regulatory burden and infrastructure, but they also look at a state’s legal liability climate. Noting that until the passage of medical review panels during the 2017 legislative session, every state surrounding Kentucky had some sort of protection for medical providers, and we were a bull’s eye for out of state trial attorneys.
“We are talking about competitiveness. We want to recruit the best and brightest doctors and medical professionals in the nation. And if we have one of the worst environments, why would anyone come to Kentucky?” Watts stated, adding that the Chamber hears from its members in the medical community frequently about the bright, young medical students they talk to who want to come to Kentucky but are deterred by the atmosphere of defensive medicine practiced in the state.
State Representative Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, applauded the legislature’s work addressing tort reform during the 2017 session, including the passage of medical review panels and lowering the judgment interest rate, but says there is still more work to be done to ensure a fair and equitable judicial system.
State Representative Chris Harris, a Democrat from Pikeville, argued the legislature went too far during the 2017 General Assembly and such laws like medical review panels not only take away rights from injured patients, but also encroach on the separation of powers between Kentucky’s three branches of government.
Vice President of the Kentucky Justice Association, Vanessa Cantley, a plaintiff’s attorney from Louisville, stated that Kentucky does not have a problem with malpractice lawsuits and stated that not only does she believe the state has done enough but “we have gone too far.”
Watts noted that she is optimistic additional tort reform measures will pass the General Assembly in the 2018 legislative session, including peer review legislation, which is law in 49 states and would increase protection for medical providers to effectively review their own performance in a frank and open manner without the thought of a lawsuit. Watts also stated strong support for transparency in private attorney contracting, a bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes during the 2017 General Assembly which would bring more accountability and transparency to taxpayer dollars by capping the amount of contingency fees collected by private attorneys hired by the Attorney General.