Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Judiciary chair considers impact of Supreme Court ruling

House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Chair John Shott says he’s already spoken with his lead attorney about a possible ‘wrongful conduct’ rule for lawmakers to consider next year in light of a recent decision from the state Supreme Court.
In an answer to a certified question from a Mingo County case issued last week, the Supreme Court opened the door for drug abusers to seek damages against the doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies where they got the drugs. Shott (R-Mercer) said he had some problems with the ruling.
 “The bigger concern from my standpoint is just the flood of nuisance-type suits (which may come) that are intended to extract some settlements that never get to a jury,” Shott said.
State lawmakers passed a bill during the last session that deals with the issue of comparative fault in civil lawsuits. The new law, which takes effect next week, prohibits someone who is injured while committing a felony criminal act from recovering damages. Some trial lawyers said the new law will cover the concerns over the Supreme Court’s ruling, but Shott said he’s not so sure.
“We’ll probably go back to that, especially that particular language and the other states that have really tackled this question directly, and see if we can refine that a little further,” Shott said.
The 3-2 Supreme Court decision said it should be up for a jury to decide if the bad acts by the drug user had any impact on the alleged negligence of the person who supplied the drugs.
Del. Shott was asked if insurance companies that cover pharmacies and doctors may begin to raise rates to cover any possible lawsuits.

“That would certainly give them an excuse although I hope that doesn’t happen. They would have to justify that on experience and so far there hasn’t been any experience,” Shott said. “I don’t think it’s going to be as serious of a concern as it was when I first heard about this, but anything is possible.”