Patients who want to sue a doctor in Tennessee will first have to get a medical expert to certify that their charges have merit under a new state law.

 

“This is the most significant reform to the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act in more than a generation,” said Senate Republi-can Leader Mark Norris, who sponsored the legislation. “It restores confidence in providers that they can invest in their patients’ care rather than lawsuits.”

According to Norris, state audits have shown more than four out of five malpractice suits in Tennessee are frivolous. The new law, which takes effect in Oct. 1, gives plaintiffs 90 days to submit their claims to an independent medical expert and file a “certificate of good faith” that the case has substance.


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“The legislation creates a significant hurdle,” reports Nashville malpractice lawyer John A. Day in his blog. “Attorneys now face a financial penalty for filing cases without consulting an expert before or shortly after filing suit.”

 

The Tennessee Medical Association praised the reform. “By cutting down on the glut of lawsuits and the associated costs that clog our state’s legal system, we will see a reduction in the cost of providing patient care and help Tennessee become a more attractive state for physicians in years to come,” states TMA board chairman F. Michael Minch, MD.

 

But within a few weeks of the Tennessee action, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed a similar measure in Oklahoma. That bill echoed a law that the state’s Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2006.