In a unanimous decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled against medical review panels for malpractice claims. The state government had imposed the requirement that malpractice claims undergo review by medical panels before advancing to court in 2017. The medical review panel legislation had been put forward by a state senator who was also a physician.

The Supreme Court’s chief justice struck down the new law because it denied people access to courts when they had been injured by another party. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, a circuit court judge had ruled against the law in October 2017. He based that decision on the lack of any public benefit from a law that appeared to protect the health care industry.

Doctors and representatives from nursing homes and hospitals comprised the panels, and their opinions about the cases were admissible as evidence in courts. In the short time since the law came into effect, a large backlog of malpractice cases developed.

The medical community in the state expressed disappointment with the ruling. Statements from the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities and the Kentucky Medical Association predicted that health care costs would rise and access would decrease within the state.

Although this ruling has removed barriers for victims seeking damages in court, a person who experienced harm in a medical setting still has high legal standards to meet to prove negligence. The representation of an attorney could help a plaintiff organize a thorough medical malpractice case that presents sufficient evidence to justify the payment of damages. An attorney could help a client negotiate a settlement or present the case to a jury.