Sunday, August 4, 2019

Utah Supreme Court strikes down law requiring "certificate of merit" in medical malpractice claims

Like many other jurisdictions, at some point, Utah enacted a statute that requires plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases to file a so-called "certificate of merit" when filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.  In some jurisdictions, the certificate is simply an affidavit by an expert supporting the conclusion that the claim has merit.  In Utah, the certificate of compliance is issued once Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) reviews the malpractice claim and determines it has merit. If the claim is rejected by the DOPL, plaintiffs can still receive the certificate upon attestation of their claims by an expert.

I have never been in favor of this requirement which is an artificial burden on plaintiffs created to make more difficult for them to get access to the courts, but it has become a standard in many states.

So, today's news is that, somewhat surprisingly, Utah’s Supreme Court has unanimously struck down the statute that required the certificate of merit holding that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers doctrine by limiting the role of the judiciary.

The case is called Vega v. Jordan Valley Medical Center, and you can read it here.

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