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Legislative Update (Continued from page 48)


the workers’ compensation fee schedule by forcing medical care providers to accept a reimbursement rate lower than the fee schedule. This bill became law on May 16, 2006. The issue of immunity once again pre-


sented itself. Eight bills were introduced to shield wrongdoers from being held re- sponsible for their bad conduct. Only one immunity bill passed: a bill that provided Tort Claims Act protection to a nonprofit bus company and SPCA located in Carroll County. All others were defeated. In the field of Medical Malpractice,


fourteen “Malpractice Reform Bills” were introduced. These bills reflected the entire spectrum of demands that previ- ously had been made by the medical and insurance lobbyists. The Administration sponsored a bill that combined most of the worst aspects of these proposals: (1) expansion of the “20% rule” for experts; (2) abolition of the collateral source rule; (3) a reduced cap of $500,000 for all damages in every case (including death cases); (4) restricting future economic damages to Medicare reimbursement rates (or HSCRC rates, or Medical As- sistance rates); (5) prescribing a formula for calculating medical inflation rates, based upon the Consumer Price Index over the past five years; and (6) setting up a Task Force to “study” other wish-list items, including immunity for emergency room negligence, mandatory structured judgments and even stricter qualification requirements for expert witnesses. Significantly, the Administration’s


bill would have retooled the civil justice system as a whole, under the guise of addressing only medical malpractice cases, by allowing more than six jurors in any civil trial and adopting a modi- fied Daubert-style scheme that would encourage expensive and time-consuming “qualifications” hearings before trial, and


amending the post-judgment interest rate for all cases from ten percent to about four percent. Thanks to our excellent corps of lobbyists and volunteers, all of these bills were defeated in committee except one (which never came to a vote in the Senate). Eighteen non-medical malpractice


tort reform bills were introduced. They ranged from granting immunity to the sellers of foods, to lowering the post judg- ment interest rate, to providing landlords protection from liability for lead paint exposure. All of these bills failed. Six bills were introduced dealing


with auto negligence or auto insurance. MTLA lobbied for a bill that would have established a system for service of pro- cess for out of state drivers through the MVA. While this bill passed the House it failed in the Senate. The most onerous bill that MTLA lobbied against was one containing provisions that would have had the effect of devastating PIP coverage in Maryland. Due in no small measure to the efforts of your MTLA Legislative team, the onerous PIP provisions were stripped from the bill. (It is interesting to note that some in Annapolis questioned how the MTLA even became aware of this late-filed bill given the fact its title and synopsis made no mention of the effects it would have had on PIP benefits). Many thanks go out to the MTLA members and sponsors who called the various legisla- tors involved with the bill to voice their concerns. During the committee hearings the legislative sponsors made mention of the inundating phone calls they received before, during, and after the committees met. In light of the Court of Appeals deci-


sion in Davis v. Slater, 383 Md. 599 (2004), the General Assembly passed HB 413 and HB 427 so that the constitutional question could appear on this year’s bal- lot. The Court in Davis discussed the common law right to a jury trial even if the ad damnum clause seeks less than


$10,000.00 in damages. This is a very important constitutional question since it will return the law to the status it held prior to Davis. As always, the MTLA owes a debt of gratitude to those legislators who fight to preserve the rights of all victims. Special thanks go to Senate President Mike Miller and his legislative counsel, Tim Perry, as well as to Senator Brian Frosh, Chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Special thanks also go to Senators John Giannetti and George Della and Delegates Brian Feldman and Curt Anderson who sponsored legislation to protect and ad- vance the rights of the injured. Last, but far from least, are those members of the House Judiciary Committee who have defeated so many mean spirited and mis- guided tort reform proposals. Chairman Joe Vallario has been very supportive and has worked tirelessly into the late hours of the session to insure that the rights of all victims are protected. Delegates Kathleen Dumais and Michael Smigiel fought equally hard for our clients as well. Delegate Luis Simmons, the MTLA Trial Lawyer of the Year, continues to be a leading voice in Annapolis on behalf of injured people. What can we expect next year? It depends. If the present administration remains in Annapolis we can expect more of the same. Even now the Governor is again talking about his belief in medical malpractice reforms and reducing non- economic damages caps for injured citizens. The insurance industry will return with its claims that the sky is falling despite the industry’s record profits. The Chamber of Commerce will return with its claims that the workers’ compensation system needs to be “fixed” even though objective evidence from the industry itself show otherwise. As long as the disciples of Karl Rove


Harry A. Milman, Ph.D. ToxNetwork.com


Consulting in Toxicology, Carcinogenesis, Pharmacology, and Pharmacy Standard of Care


14317 Bauer Drive Rockville, MD 20853 www.toxnetwork.com


50


Phone: 301-871-6715 Fax:


301-871-5586 e-mail: hmilman@toxnetwork.com Trial Reporter


remain in office we will see continuing attacks on the civil justice system and continuing attempts to erode the rights available to the victims of negligence in Maryland. Therefore, we must be proac- tive at fundraising and at the polls and in Annapolis in order to preserve the rights of our fellow Marylanders from the relent- less efforts of those who would create a state where no business, hospital, or health care provider is held accountable. This year’s gubernatorial election is


the most important one in our lifetime. Now is the time to act, with your wallet and your vote, to support candidates who believe in the civil justice system and preserving basic fairness for the injured, and to oppose those candidates who do not share such a belief.


Summer 2006





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