It was the last day of the legislative session and Sylvester Traylor held out hope that the Senate would give final passage to a bill that makes it a little easier for people to file medical malpractice claims.
It didn’t. After getting bogged down by debate from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle it was passed temporarily as the Senate sought to move forward with its other bills in the hectic final hours.
The bill, which Traylor advocated for passed the House 87-51, and was intended to correct what supporters believed was an unintended consequence of a 2005 revision to the state’s tort reform law.
The bill would have allowed anyone wishing to initiate a medical malpractice claim to obtain a “certificate of merit” from a qualified health care provider. Currently the law requires a person to obtain the certificate from a “similar” health care provider, which some testified sets the bar too high.
The bill was supported by the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, which testified back in March that the current law sets a higher standard for a certificate of merit than it does for an expert witness that testifies in court. They said a medical expert who is not able to sign a pre-litigation letter would be allowed to testify as an expert in court. They said this bill will remedy this contradiction.
“In my mind that’s not justice. They haven’t even had their day in court,” Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said during the floor debate. “What this bill is about is not tort reform. This bill is about not having people, arbitrarily in my view, kept outside the courthouse.”
But Sen. Rob Kane, R-Watertown, argued the revision to the law in 2005 was adequate. He was joined in his opinion by Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, who said a recent $58 million jury settlement against a doctor accused of delaying a cesarean section which allegedly caused a baby to be born with cerebral palsy, is proof the current medical malpractice laws are adequate to bring forth a case.
But Traylor doesn’t see it that way.
He said Kane walked up to him after the bill was tabled and told him if it wasn’t the final day of session the bill may have had a chance. There just wasn’t enough time to debate it.
Traylor said he thinks some Senators may have had conflicts of interest or they were strong-armed by the insurance lobby, which was concerned about having to pay medical malpractice settlements, if more claims actually got to court.
Obtaining a certificate of merit was one of the hurdles Traylor faced when he sought to find justice for his wife, who took her own life seven years ago.
The New London man, who has had minimal success with a medical malpractice case he filed against his wife’s psychiatrist, alleges that the psychiatrist failed to return his phone calls seeking help. The antidepressants she was prescribed had an adverse effect, he said. A few weeks later in March 2004, she took her own life.
He said his case is an example of the hurdles someone needs to clear in order to obtain a “certificate of merit” in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
“As case law has evolved we are at a point where justice invites us to address this issue,” Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Hartford, said. “This bill before us is a fair approach to this conundrum.”
Lawmakers said they will take up the matter next year, but that’s not good enough for Traylor who vowed to do everything he can to find justice for his wife.
Click here to read our previous article on this issue.