Wyoming News

Various Options Under Consideration for Wyoming Medical Malpractice Reform

Wyoming doctors are considering joining a multi-state insurance pool that would require an amendment to the state constitution. The 800 doctors who practice in Wyoming are too few to create a viable self-insurance pool, but may join COPIC, the Colorado provider-owned insurance company and hospital purchasing group. The company’s executive vice president, George Dikeou, has said that the admission of the physicians to the group is contingent upon Wyoming adopting reforms in state liability laws or limiting non-economic damages.

The demands of COPIC require an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution, an amendment that legislators do not support. Last winter, a proposed constitutional amendment to cap non-economic damages died in the House Judiciary Committee on a 6-3 vote. Colorado has adopted a cap on non-economic damages of $250,000 and a cap on total damages of $1 million unless the judge rules that a higher award is justified.

Many in Wyoming argue that tort reform here is unnecessary, since Wyoming jury awards have not been excessive in medical malpractice lawsuits. “There is no million dollar jury verdict from 1989 through 2001,” said Tom Rubin, a representative of Wyoming trial lawyers. Of the 31 jury trials during that period, 26 were for zero dollar awards, and of the five remaining verdicts, the largest was for $750,000.

An alternate plan sponsored by Republican Rep. Colin Simpson would create a medical malpractice review panel to screen medical malpractice claims, a step designed to cut down on the number of lawsuits filed.

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