Medical malpractice bill killed in Senate

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A proposal to allow clear medical malpractice claims to go directly to court rather than through medical review panels was defeated Monday in the Indiana Senate.

Senators voted 27-22 against Senate Bill 55, which would have allowed malpractice claims to be filed directly to court in two situations: when the wrong body part has been removed, or when the claim is based on the existence of a foreign object in the patient’s body.

Under current state law, any claim for damages in excess of $15,000 must go before a medical review panel consisting of three medical professionals. Panels render opinions on proposed claims before they may be heard in court. An attorney also is appointed to chair these panels but doesn’t vote.

Previously, senators stripped the bill of a provision that would have raised the $15,000 limit, which has not been increased since 1985. Bill sponsor Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, proposed raising the threshold to $187,500, but the Judiciary Committee he chairs sent the bill to the floor with the limit increased to just $50,000. The increase was stripped out entirely on the Senate floor, where the provisions concerning foreign objects and removal of wrong body parts were added.

SB 55 is one of two medical malpractice bills introduced in the General Assembly this session.

Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, authored House Bill 1043 that would increase the medical malpractice award cap from the current level of $1.25 million to $1.65 million. The bill also would raise insurers’ liability to $300,000 from the current limit of $250,000.

HB 1043 on Monday passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 9-2 vote.

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