Ward Smith PLLC Articles Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Certificates

Washington Supreme Court Strikes Down Certificates

By Ward Smith  Feb. 21, 2011 11:50a

Law Required Medical Expert to Authenticate Lawsuits

In a decision by the Washington Supreme Court that affirms the system of checks and balances, legislation attempting to require a 'certificate of merit' in order to file a lawsuit against medical practitioners was ruled unconstitutional.

Originally, the system was signed into law as part of Washington Revised Code RCW 7.70.150. It stipulated that any individual attempting to sue a doctor or hospital for malpractice would require an 'expert' in the medical field to testify in writing that they believed the defendant probably behaved poorly or negligently. The written testimony was referred to as a certificate of merit.

The intent of the law was to reduce the number of frivolous malpractice suits filed against medical professionals, allowing them to avoid needlessly spending time and money in court. By requiring experts in medical practice to legitimize claims, it would reduce the burden placed on judges and lawyers to determine what was a simple mistake and what was actually malpractice. Opponents argued that it placed an unfair restriction on the legal system, which is supposed to be free to all.

Certificate of Merit Requirement for Malpractice Suits Breaches Separation of Powers

The Supreme Court, however, for the most part ignored the arguments for and against. Instead, the decision to strike down the law focused mostly on the violation of the doctrine of the separation of powers. In the opinion handed down by the court, the law was clarified as being "procedural" rather than "substantive", in that it did not address the rights of plaintiffs, instead affecting the procedure by which those rights are exercised. By making this distinction, the court ruled that the legislative branch of government did not have the ability to legislate court procedures.

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If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, it is imperative that you contact a qualified personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The attorneys at Ward Smith are seasoned veterans of the courtroom, ready to assist you in whatever capacity they can.

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