Kentucky Supreme Court overturns medical review panels, upholds right-to-work law

In rulings released on Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court has overturned the state’s medical review panels law and upheld right to work.

Medical Review Panels

Medical review panels, which passed the General Assembly in 2017, is a policy allowing for a panel consisting of three physicians and an independent moderator to determine whether or not the standard of care has been violated, with the findings being admissible in court. Bill sponsor Sen. Ralph Alvarado often stated the legislation sought to add another layer of accountability to the process.

In their opinion, the court stated they feel the policy delays access to the courts for adjudication of common-law claims, which was their reasoning for agreeing with the lower court that the law violated the Kentucky constitution.

The Kentucky Chamber has been a longtime supporter of medical review panels legislation to address the escalating costs directly attributed to Kentucky’s uncontrolled medical liability climate. On Thursday, Kentucky Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ashli Watts released a statement about the ruling and how the business community plans to move forward.

“The Kentucky Chamber is disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Medical Review Panels, which is curbing frivolous lawsuits in the Commonwealth. The business community will continue to advocate for commonsense legal liability reforms to improve the business climate in Kentucky,” Watts said.

The Partnership for Commonsense Justice, a coalition of businesses and business groups, associations and individuals (including the Kentucky Chamber), also released a statement expressing disappointment in the court’s ruling:

We are stunned by the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the much-needed medical review panel law. Once again, the court has delivered a victory for trial lawyers in spite of Kentucky’s best interests.
The Medical Review Panel process would have expedited justice for injured parties by exposing frivolous suits and certifying real injuries. Kentucky’s business and caregiver communities worked jointly with legislative leaders and legal experts to establish a fair policy, proven successful in many other states. The ruling sends a terrible message to Kentucky’s caregiver community and affirms what has long been true: it’s open season for trial lawyers on Kentucky caregivers.

As a result, Kentucky will continue to lag behind our regional competitors when it comes to attracting the professionals we need to provide care to our communities at costs they can afford. Kentucky must improve the legal liability climate in Kentucky and put patients ahead of the trial bar.

Read the full Supreme Court opinion on medical review panels here.

Right to Work

The Supreme Court also upheld the right-to-work law, which allows employees to decide whether they join a union.

The legislature passed right to work as House Bill 1 in 2017, making it the top priority for the then newly Republican House.

The Chamber has been a longtime supporter of right to work as a key to economic development.

“The business community is glad to see right to work upheld. Kentucky has had a record number of economic development investment over the last few years, and being a right-to-work state is critical for this growth,” Watts said on Thursday.

Read the full Supreme Court opinion on right to work here.

Other Lawsuits

Many expected the Supreme Court to rule on the pension reform bill passed in the 2018 session, but it was not addressed.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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