Maine’s Senator Snowe Introduces Legislation To Require Malpractice Victims Go to Expense and Time Delay of Medical Screening Panels Before A Jury Trial

Maine requires that a medical screening panel hear a medical malpractice case before it can be heard by a jury.   Tennessee had screening panels in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they were abandoned because all agreed that they were ridiculous. 

Now, Senator Snowe wants to require that states adopt screening panels as a condition of receiving Medicaid funding.  Here is a copy of the proposed amendment:

How are the panels working in Maine?  Well, 37.61% of claims filed in 2005 have yet to be heard by a panel while 69% of claims filed in 2006 are still pending.  Maine Chief Justice Saufley has called the two-trial system “a cumbersome process with unpredictable results that cost both the plaintiffs and the defendants money and time in a way that was not intended by the Legislature.”

In addition, Maine screening panels are stacked in the favor of the defense.  If the defense wins any one of three questions unanimously (negligence, comparative fault, causation) at the panel, the jury learns of such a finding.  However, the victim must prevail on ALL THREE questions before the jury learns the victim prevailed at the panel.  The process is also stacked to the defense because it allows the defense to change their experts if they lose at the panel.  The defense is not required to keep the same experts and doctors when they go to trial.  This means victims have to go through, and pay for, a complete second round of expensive discovery.  Besides being grossly unfair, this system is incredibly inefficient. 

Senator Snowe’s numbers are as follows:  Washington, DC: (202) 224-5344  Portland, ME: (207) 874-0883