Washington Certificate of Merit Struck Down

The Washington Supreme Court has struck down the filing of a certificate of merit in medical malpractice cases in Washington state.   The certificate is required by RCW 7.70.150.

The opinion said that the statute was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers between the Legislature and the Judiciary and it denied medical malpractice victims equal access to the courts. 

The Court said that

“Requiring medical malpractice plaintiffs to submit a certificate prior to discovery hinders their right of access to courts. Through the discovery process, plaintiffs uncover the evidence necessary to pursue their claims. Obtaining the evidence necessary to obtain a certificate of merit may not be possible prior to discovery, when health care workers can be interviewed and procedural manuals reviewed . …  It is the duty of the courts to administer justice by protecting the legal rights and enforcing the legal obligations of the people. Accordingly, we must strike down this law

The case is Putman v. Wenatchee Valley Med. Ctr.,  Docket No. 80888-1 (September 17, 2009).  Here is the Court’s opinion.  Here is the concurring opinion.