WASHINGTON - United States Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) introduced "loser pays" legislation to decrease the number of frivolous lawsuits that increase the cost of medical care.
"Reform of medical malpractice is one of the key, missing ingredients from the health care reform proposals being debated in Congress," said Senator Graham "A ‘loser pays' system is one of the best devices available to prevent frivolous lawsuits from costing all of us.
When both parties in a lawsuit are subject to financial penalty, people think longer and harder about bringing a questionable case forward. Most western nations already have a ‘loser pays' rule, and it is time our own country adopts this concept."
"This critical piece of healthcare reform has been missing from every Democratic proposal," said Senator Chambliss. "While no one with a valid claim for medical malpractice should be denied his day in court, those who bring frivolous lawsuits raise the cost of healthcare for everyone.
‘Loser pays' should go a long way toward discouraging such junk lawsuits and lowering the cost of practicing medicine."
The senators noted that the state of Florida applied a "loser pays" rule exclusively to medical malpractice claims from 1980 to 1985. During that time, the percentage of malpractice suits that went to trial was cut nearly in half, and the plaintiff cases that went to trial prevailed more often, as weak cases were eliminated.
Graham-Chambliss "loser pays" creates a system of preliminary, non-binding arbitration for medical malpractice claims before they ever enter a courtroom. If one or both of the parties involved reject the arbitrator's decision, they can take the claim to court but are then subject to the "loser pays" rule.
Additionally, states will also have the option to create their own alternative dispute resolution systems, with the freedom to tailor procedures as they see fit.
The bill is called the Fair Resolution of Medical Liability Disputes Act of 2009.