Medical Malpractice Screening Panels Across the States

From IAJ

Pre-trial medical malpractice screening panels add time and cost to the burden of an injured patient.  Several states have abandoned this process, finding them ineffective, unpredictable, and too expensive. Other states have removed screening panels because they were found to violate constitutional rights. There is overwhelming evidence from across the country that this experiment simply doesn’t work.

Legislatures are removing panels
In Maine, the chief justice of the Supreme Court called their panels, "a cumbersome process with unpredictable results that cost both the plaintiffs and defendants money and time in a way that was not intended by the Legislature." After over 10 years of panels in Arizona the doctors, lawyers and judges of the state convinced the legislature to repeal the law. In total, 12 states have done away with panels through the legislature or the courts.

State Supreme Courts are striking panels down
In 1976 the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that med mal screening panels violate the right to trial by jury and later when the legislature modified the statute the high court held that it violated the separation of powers doctrine (1986). The Florida (1980) and Missouri (1979) Supreme Courts found that med mal screening panels deny citizens constitutional due process rights. Panels were also struck down in the Rhode Island (1983) and Wyoming (1988) courts on equal protection grounds. 

Academic studies reveal panels to be ineffective
The academic community has reached the same conclusions about med mal screening panels. A comprehensive study of screening panels from the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2003 shows, “The available data on states with panel systems suggest that panels have not brought much overall improvement in malpractice litigation. Indeed, as shown in Exhibit 6, panel systems have been repealed in at least seven states and overturned by courts in another five. A major reason for some repeals and judicial invalidations was that the panels caused undue delay.”