Screening Panels in Med Mal Cases Before NH Supreme Court

Once again the issue of screening panels in medical malpractice cases is before the NH Supreme Court. The screening panels, passed by the NH Legislature in 2005 but not implemented until 2007 due to legal challenges, are required by law in New Hampshire before anyone may bring a civil medical malpractice lawsuit.
Proponents of the controversial screening panels have insisted that the panels save time and money. However, since their implementation in 2007, the opposite is true. The panels cost more money and more time. They also prevent equal access to the justice system, a right afforded to each citizen by the Constitution.
The case now before the NH Supreme Court involves a failure to timely diagnose medical malpractice case in which the victim died. The victim’s family brought a medical malpractice lawsuit and subsequently asked the court to declare the screening panels unconstitutional and exclude them from the trial. A trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion, saying the panels violate the separation of powers clause in the state Constitution.
“The process mandated by [the law] impermissibly encroaches on core judicial functions … by requiring the admission of the panel findings without exercise of judicial discretion … and by dictating the instructions the court must deliver to the jury regardless of the facts,” Superior Court Judge Diane M. Nicolosi said in her opinion.
We’ve written extensively on this issue before and believe Judge Nicolosi’s analysis is correct and should be upheld.