Judiciary can’t afford passage of Bill 112
A measure that would eliminate the mandatory arbitration requirement for medical malpractice claims and replace it with a pre-trial screening by a magistrate judge, Bill 112, is a very bad idea.
It would mean doctors won’t treat patients with conditions normally serviced by specialists. That would force patients to seek care off island, which is expensive. It also would make it much harder to recruit and retain physicians.
And the bill’s sponsors apparently didn’t check with the island’s courts about the impact of the proposed measure.
Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido – noting his comments don’t reflect a position on Bill 112 — said the Judiciary of Guam wasn’t invited to provide fiscal comment on Bill 112 and simply doesn’t have the budget or resources to effectively conduct pre-trial screening of malpractice claims.
The Judiciary has a backlog of criminal and civil cases exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and, with the lifting of the moratorium on eviction and foreclosures, an influx of cases is expected.
Magistrate judges would assume those cases, and recently were allowed to handle proceedings that formerly required a Superior Court judge.
On top of that, magistrates would need specialized training and education to weigh malpractice claims. The Judiciary has neither the funding nor the internal expertise to do that, Carbullido said.
That training would also mean magistrate judges would have less time to spend on their already heavy caseloads.
The bill also would double judicial review of malpractice claims because it would require the filing of court action to initiate a claim, which would have an “immediate and profound” impact on operations.
The chief justice said the courts would need additional funds, plus an additional magistrate judge, if the bill becomes law. He also asked that if the measure is passed, that it not be put into effect until a year after enactment.
Those pushing the bill say medical malpractice arbitration is too costly. They should then focus on ways to address arbitration costs without destroying our health care infrastructure. Or creating a bigger burden and additional costs to our already overburdened and backlogged judicial system.