SENATE, No. 623

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2012 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  THOMAS H. KEAN, JR.

District 21 (Morris, Somerset and Union)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes a Medical Malpractice Court.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

  


An Act establishing a Medical Malpractice Court and supplementing Title 2B of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    The Legislature of the State of New Jersey finds and declares that:

     a.     The resolution of disputes in cases involving medical malpractice issues should be improved to assure litigants that the process  is an equitable and just one; and

     b.    Improving quality in these cases leads to efficient allocation of judicial resources; and

     c.     A  Medical Malpractice Court would provide these litigants with  access to the courts and efficient resolution of the disputes; and

     d.    Medical Malpractice Courts should be created in such locations as provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court, in order to afford accessible and efficient access throughout the State of New  Jersey, with appropriate consideration of the geographic distribution of cases coming within the jurisdiction of the Medical Malpractice Court and of the efficient allocation of judicial resources; and

     e.     The appointment of persons to sit as judges of the Medical Malpractice Court should take into account the knowledge of the law governing all aspects of  medical malpractice.

 

     2.    A Medical Malpractice Court is hereby established as a court of limited jurisdiction pursuant to Article VI, Section 1, paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution.

 

     3.    The Medical Malpractice Court shall be a court of record and shall have a seal.

 

     4.    The Medical Malpractice Court shall have jurisdiction with respect to:

     a.     Any action where the parties have agreed in writing that any matter arising out of the agreement would be resolved in Medical Malpractice Court.

     b.    Any dispute concerning medical malpractice liability insurance;

     c.     Any action for injury against a health care provider based on negligence;

     d.    Any other medical malpractice dispute as provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court;

     e.     Any action cognizable in the Superior Court which raises issues as to which judicial expertise in matters involving medical malpractice is desirable, which are not within the jurisdiction of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court, and which have been transferred to the Medical Malpractice Court pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court; or

     f.     any other matters as may be provided by statute.

 

     5.    a.  The Medical Malpractice Court, in all causes within its jurisdiction, and subject to law, may grant legal and equitable relief so that all matters in controversy between the parties may be completely determined.

     b.    Judgments of the Medical Malpractice Court may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court pursuant to Rules of the Supreme Court.

 

     6.    a.  The filing fee for commencement of proceedings in the Medical Malpractice Court shall be the same as proceedings in the Superior Court,  Law Division.

     b.    Additional fees and the reduction or waiver of fees for particular classes of cases shall be established by the Rules of the Supreme Court.

     c.     No proceeding shall be heard by the Medical Malpractice Court unless the fees are paid or waived.

     d.    All fees shall be payable to the clerk of the Medical Malpractice  Court for the use of the State, and shall not be refundable except as specifically provided by the Rules  of the Supreme Court.

     e.     Practice and procedure in the Medical Malpractice Court shall be as provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court.

     f.     Decisions of the Medical Malpractice Court shall be published in the manner directed by the Supreme Court.  

 

     7.    a.  The Medical Malpractice Court shall maintain permanent locations in Trenton and Newark and may hold sessions at other locations throughout the State.  

     b.    The State shall provide courtrooms, chambers and offices for the  Medical Malpractice Court at the required permanent locations in Trenton and Newark and shall arrange for courtrooms, chambers and offices or other appropriate facilities at other locations throughout the State. 

 

     8.    a.  The Governor shall nominate and appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the judges of the Medical Malpractice  Court.

     b.    All appointments to such judgeships shall be made in such manner that the appointees shall be, as nearly as possible, in equal numbers, members of different political parties so as to constitute the Medical Malpractice Court bipartisan in character.

     The words "political parties" mean such political parties as shall have cast the largest and next to the largest number of votes, respectively, for members of the General Assembly at the last preceding general election held for the election of all the members of the General Assembly prior to the making of any such appointments.

 

     9.    a.  The Medical Malpractice Court shall consist of no less than six, nor more than 12 judges, each of whom shall exercise the powers of the court, subject to the Rules of the Supreme Court. 

     b.    The judges of the Medical Malpractice Court shall have been admitted to the practice of law in the State for at least 10 years prior to appointment and shall be chosen for their special qualifications, knowledge and experience in matters involving all aspects of medical malpractice. 

 

     10.  a.  The judges of the Medical Malpractice Court shall hold their offices for initial terms of seven years and until their successors are appointed and qualified, and upon reappointment shall hold their offices during good behavior. 

     b.    The judges of the Medical Malpractice Court shall be retired upon attaining the age of 70 years, upon the same terms and conditions as judges of the Superior Court, and shall have the same pension rights and other benefits as judges of the Superior Court. 

 

     11.  a. Each judge of the Medical Malpractice Court shall receive annual compensation and other benefits equal to that of a judge of the Superior Court and which shall not be diminished during the term of appointment. 

     b.    The judges of the Medical Malpractice Court shall not engage in the practice of law or other gainful pursuit nor shall they hold other office or position of profit under this State, any other State or the United States.

 

     12.  a.  The judges of the Medical Malpractice Court shall be subject to impeachment, and upon impeachment shall not exercise judicial office until acquitted.  The judges of the Medical Malpractice Court shall also be subject to removal from office by the Supreme Court for the causes and in the manner as is provided by law for the removal of judges of the Superior Court.

     b.    Whenever the Supreme Court certifies to the Governor that a judge of the Medical Malpractice Court appears to be substantially unable to perform the duties of office, the Governor shall appoint a commission of three persons to inquire into the circumstances.  Upon the recommendation of the commission, the Governor may retire the judge from office, on pension, as may be provided by law. 

 

     13.  The Chief Justice shall assign one of the judges of the Medical Malpractice Court to be the presiding judge of the Medical Malpractice Court.  The presiding judge shall, subject to the supervision of the Chief Justice and the Administrative Director of the Courts, be responsible for the administration of the Medical Malpractice Court. 

 

     14.  The presiding judge shall submit a report to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court annually.  The report shall be published as part of the Annual Report of the Administrative Director of the Courts.  The report shall contain information and statistics for the previous fiscal year concerning the operation of the Medical Malpractice Court.  The report may also contain recommendations by the presiding judge regarding the clarification or revision of legislation, rules and regulations relating to medical malpractice, or the practice and procedure in the Medical Malpractice Court. 

 

     15.  The Chief Justice may assign judges of the Medical Malpractice Court to the Superior Court or to any other court as the need appears, and any judge so assigned shall exercise all of the powers of a judge of that court. 

 

     16.  The Supreme Court shall appoint to serve at its pleasure a Clerk and a Deputy Clerk of the Medical Malpractice Court, neither of whom shall be subject to the provisions of Title 11A, Civil Service, of the New Jersey Statutes. 

 

     17.  This act shall take effect on the 180th day after the date of enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would establish a Medical Malpractice Court as a court of limited jurisdiction similar to the current Tax Court.  The Medical Malpractice Court would have jurisdiction with respect to: (1) any dispute concerning medical malpractice liability insurance; (2) any action where the parties have agreed in writing that any matter arising out of the agreement would be resolved in Medical Malpractice Court; (3) any action for injury against a health care provider based on negligence; (4) any other medical malpractice dispute as provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court; (5) any action cognizable in the Superior Court which raise issues as to which judicial expertise in matters involving medical malpractice is desirable, which are not within the jurisdiction of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court, and which have been transferred to the Medical Malpractice Court pursuant to the Rules of the Supreme Court; or  (6) any other matters as may be provided by statute

     The Governor would nominate and appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the judges of the Medical Malpractice Court.  The court would consist of not less than six judges and not more than 12 judges.  The judges of this court would be required have been admitted to the practice of law in this State for at least 10 years  prior to appointment.  Judges of the Medical Malpractice Court would hold their offices for initial terms of seven years and until their successors are appointed and qualified, and upon reappointment would hold their offices during good behavior. The judges would be required to retire at the age of 70 years, upon the same terms and conditions as judges of the Superior Court, and would have the same pension rights and other benefits as judges of the Superior Court.  Each judge would receive an annual compensation and other benefits equal to that of a judge of the Superior Court. The judges would be subject to impeachment and removal from office by the Supreme Court as is provided by law.

     The Chief Justice would assign one of the judges of the Medical Malpractice Court to be the presiding judge.  The presiding judge would, subject to the supervision of the Chief Justice and the Administrative Director of the Courts, be responsible for the administration of the court.