Delegate Kathleen Dumais

Democrat, Maryland House of Delegates District 15

If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Bill to repeal 20 percent rule gets cold greeting

By: Steve Lash Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

ANNAPOLIS – Senate-passed legislation to permit doctors to spend more time testifying as experts in medical-malpractice cases received a chilly reception in a House committee Thursday.

Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said the law limiting the percentage of a doctor’s professional activities that can be devoted to courtroom testimony and related activities in malpractice cases has worked well in the more than 30 years it has been in effect.

Sen. Victor R. Ramirez, D-Prince George’s and chief sponsor of the bill to repeal the “20 percent rule,” suggested that perhaps the law can be changed to 25 percent but was again rebuffed by Dumais, D-Montgomery.

MedChi, Maryland’s main physicians’ organization, has urged its members to oppose repeal of the rule, saying it has served as a hedge against doctors essentially specializing in courtroom testimony and serving as what the group assails as “professional witnesses” for plaintiffs in malpractice cases.

The Maryland Association for Justice, an organization of plaintiffs’ attorneys, supports repeal. In written testimony, MAJ stated that the 20 percent rule has led to protracted litigation because plaintiffs and defendants have fought over whether a medical expert has spent more than one-fifth of his or her practice on court-related matters.

The repeal measure is Senate Bill 30.

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