Backed by Ky. business and medical groups, bill to screen malpractice suits clears Senate committee

02/12/2014 05:32 PM

Cheered on by a coalition of state business and medical groups, a Senate panel endorsed a bill Wednesday to create an entity to screen medical malpractice lawsuits against nursing homes.

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, had proposed similar legislation which cleared the full Senate last year, but was never heard in committee in the House. This year Denton is back at the table with revisions to the bill and the backing of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, among other groups in a wider coalition.

“We need to have common sense inserted into this process. And by a three panel of professional medical personnel being able to take a look —physicians — at the medical evidence surrounding the case and giving a judgement as to whether there’s basis in medical evidence or not. That can help weed out the frivolous cases,” Denton said.

The measure has drawn criticism from Democrats, most notably Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, who is a trial attorney.

Among those testifying before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Wednesday was Larry Forgy, a former Republican candidate who now represents 13 nursing homes in his law practice.

Forgy said out-of-state injury law firms flooded Kentucky to bring suits against nursing homes after states such as Florida passed medical malpractice reform. Wanda Delaplane, who said she opposes the bill, said the point isn’t where the lawyers are coming from, but that preventable deaths are happening in Kentucky.

The estate of Delaplane’s father was awarded $20 million in 2006 from the nursing home.

Forgy — always ready with a political jab — mentioned later that House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, joined one of the Florida firms he was referring to. He said the firm, Morgan & Morgan, has more offices in Florida than the “Florida welfare department.”

“I know there are people on the other end of the hall from you all that have joined these Florida crowds,” Forgy said. “The Speaker of the House is now on television asking for lawsuits to be filed and he’ll help you with them. Now that’s the damndest thing that I’ve seen lately.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for their consideration.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.