Nevada considers panel to screen malpractice claims
April 8, 2003
A Nevada Assembly panel was urged Monday to set up screening panels for medical and dental malpractice suits — panels similar to one abolished by the Legislature last fall.
Assemblyman Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, an obstetrician and gynecologist, told the Judiciary Committee that screening panels help to reduce frivolous lawsuits and facilitate settlements.
During last year’s special legislative session, lawmakers established caps on medical malpractice awards, and in the process eliminated a screening panel system after doctors said it wasn’t working.
Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, questioned the seeming flip-flop by some doctors on the issue. She said lawmakers had encouraged doctors to consider fixing the panel process instead of abolishing it.
“It strikes me as maybe the physicians should have listened to the Legislature on this item,” Buckley added.
Mabey, R-Las Vegas, told the committee he’s been sued four times during his career, and he found the panel process extremely helpful.
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“It really kind of makes everybody lay their cards on the table,” Mabey said.
Under Mabey’s AB300, the Nevada insurance commissioner would enter into contracts with physicians, dentists and attorneys to set up the panels.
Anyone wanting to sue a doctor for malpractice would need a panel hearing first, but could still sue regardless of the panel’s finding.
Bill Bradley, a lobbyist for the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, said he had begged the Legislature to retain and revise the old panel system — but he opposes the new version now that Nevada has a cap on awards.
Bradley said one of the old panel’s problems was that it cost a lot of money to file suits and go through the lawsuit process.
He also said that while the panel’s purpose was to wean out frivolous lawsuits, it also weaned out some meritorious claims.
“The panel had shortcoming, there’s no doubt about it,” Bradley said.
Buckley said lawmakers now should seek “a balance between ensuring a stable insurance market and protecting the rights of people who are truly victimized.”