In late July 2002, a special session of the Nevada Legislature passed medical malpractice reform legislation. The expressly-stated purpose of this statute is remedying, or at least ameliorating, the "serious threat to the health, welfare and safety of [Nevada] residents" which is posed by the state's "extreme difficulties attracting and maintaining a sufficient network of physicians to meet [residents'] needs." Moreover, the measure emphasizes substantive reforms that are primarily intended to limit the potential liability of certain health care providers for negligent actions. However, the legislation encompasses numerous "procedural" provisions, which may be equally important as the substantive reforms that the legislature sought to implement. The provisos include prescriptions for statutes of limitation, joint and several liability, and judicial imposition of sanctions on attorneys who participate in inappropriate behavior when litigating cases. Most of these provisions depart from those that govern other actions. These procedural changes are significant, in part, because the modifications could apply to additional substantive areas of tort law, such as liability for vehicular collisions and for manufacturing defective products, if the alterations prove effective in the medical malpractice field. Indeed, the provisos which cover joint and several liability, as well as sanctions, amend sections of the Nevada Revised Statutes that govern all litigation. The recently adopted procedures, therefore, warrant examination, which this essay undertakes.
The first section of the paper provides a descriptive assessment of the procedural provisions that the Nevada Legislature included in the newly-enacted statute. The second portion critically analyzes the procedural changes by evaluating their benefits and disadvantages and by comparing the modifications with analogous provisos which apply to litigation in cases that do not involve medical malpractice. The essay then proffers several recommendations for the future.
Carl Tobias, Procedural Provisions in Nevada Medical Malpractice Reform, 3 Nev. L.J. 406 (2003)