The City Paper
and certain political bloggers
are discussing whether state Rep. Rob Briley actually might have been trying to enact meaningful medical malpractice reform last session. That's a good one. Briley isn't in the back pocket of the trial lawyers after all? Who knew?
What happened was that Briley took a Senate-passed bill and changed it to make it easier in some ways for trial lawyers to win malpractice suits. At the same time, of course, he made it unacceptable to the medical profession and to Republicans, and it didn't pass.
First, he tried to modify what's called the locality rule under which doctors are judged according to their own community's standard of care. Briley wanted to establish a statewide standard of care so that a physician from, say, Lake County would be compared with a doctor from Memphis, even though they don't have the same resources, equipment, etc.
Second, he basically watered down any provisions restricting lawyers in malpractice cases. One example: The law now requires 60-day written notice to all potential defendants. Briley wanted to let judges decide whether to enforce that rule.
On May 9, the House tabled Briley's amendment and then, at the sponsor's request, the bill was returned to the Judiciary Committee. Not a big surprise. On the House floor later in the session, Briley said he was glad the legislation died: "There is a crisis in this state, but it's not about malpractice insurance—it's about malpractice and patient safety."
It's really not debatable which side of the issue Briley was on. The trial lawyers were perfectly happy to leave the law exactly as it is, which is what happened.