OSMA-Backed Tort Reform Legislation Passes Senate

 

House Bill 7 sailed through the Senate on Wednesday, clearing its last major hurdle before becoming law. The legislation includes numerous medical liability reforms which serve to reduce unnecessary litigation and to provide further clarity, stability and predictability to Ohio’s medical and legal communities. The bill passed out of the House in early summer of 2018. 

 

HB 7 is the result of several years of work and collaboration between the OSMA and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima), with additional support from several organizations in the health care community, including the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA). The OSMA is continuously appreciative of Representative Cupp’s dedication and cooperation on this issue, and thankful for our partnership on the bill with OHA. The provisions in HB 7 are meaningful and impactful, and will strengthen Ohio’s existing medical liability statute. 

Some of the key items in the bill include: 

Shotgun Lawsuits 

HB 7 will help to eliminate the undesirable practice of "shot gunning" defendants in medical claims. This can result in unnecessary expenses to plaintiffs and pointless costs to physicians and their insurers, not to mention other adverse consequences for physicians associated with reporting of lawsuits filed against them. Under the new statute, plaintiffs would have a finite period to name additional defendants after the initial filing of a medical claim. Additionally, the legislation also imposes upon plaintiffs the obligation to exercise due diligence to discover the basis for asserting claims against any such additional defendants within that period.

“I’m Sorry” law

HB 7 will amend the apology statute enacted in Ohio in 2004. Unfortunately, the courts have struggled with the apology statute, resulting in inconsistent application of the statute as they try to distinguish between fault statements and sympathy statements. HB 7 includes a clarification of the apology statute to further open the lines of communication between patient and physician and reduce overall lawsuits. 

Insurer Reimbursements Can’t Define Standard of Care

The bill will also prohibit the use of insurer payment policies and guidelines from being used to establish the standard of care. Recently-adopted payment guidelines and performance incentives were never intended to be used in legal proceedings to establish the standard of care. Rather, they were simply created as cost-management tools for the federal government and other third-party payers. 

Disaster Care

HB 7 will provide limited qualified protection for health care providers who deliver health care services during a disaster, where an event has occurred that has caused widespread injury, illness or loss of life. In those limited situations, care is often delivered in a chaotic environment, where staff and resources are stretched. In such situations, the health care providers would receive some limited immunity, as long as the provider’s act or omission does not constitute “reckless disregard” for the consequences on the health or life of the patient.

The OSMA is excited by this legislation’s success, and by the ability to close out the year and the 132nd General Assembly with this fantastic victory for our physician members. Stay tuned for updates on the close of the lame duck legislative session, as well as for more information on legislative priorities as we head into the New Year.