CONCORD — New Hampshire will be the first state in the nation to adopt an “early offer” program aimed at providing speedy resolution to malpractice cases, after the Legislature on Wednesday overrode the governor’s veto of SB 406.
The program would enable patients who sustain medical injuries and agree to participate in the process to receive a capped settlement, based largely on lost wages and medical expenses, in a matter of months, as opposed to the years traditional malpractice cases take to reach resolution.
“Under SB 406, patients will have less risk as they pursue their injury settlement, which is important considering nearly two-thirds of plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases lose,” said the bill’s chief sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.
The program was pushed by Elliot Hospital in Manchester, the New Hampshire Medical Society and others, but opposed by trial lawyers, malpractice insurance companies and patient advocacy groups, who said only the vulnerable and desperate would opt to participate.
Opponents were particularly upset about a provision requiring the injured patient to post a bond before entering the court system, saying it tilts the balance to the health care providers and their insurers.
Legislation that would permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes has again been defeated.
The Senate voted 13-10 to overturn Gov. John Lynch’s veto of Senate Bill 409, three votes short of the necessary two-thirds margin for an override.
The bill would have allowed seriously and terminally ill patients to grow marijuana for personal use with a doctor’s prescription.
The vote crossed party lines, with two Democrats changing their vote to support the veto.
Supporters of the bill said it was carefully crafted to ensure that only people with severe debilitating medical conditions would have access to the drug. Opponents, including Gov. Lynch, cited law enforcement concerns about proliferation and abuse of marijuana.
Similar legislation met the same fate in 2009, when there weren’t enough votes in the Senate to overturn Lynch’s veto.
Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, which strongly pushed for the bill, said his group will likely try again next year.
“We will continue working with lawmakers to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana free from the fear of arrest. We are hopeful that the new governor will be more reasonable,” he said in a statement.
The ‘Salinger’ bill
The Senate voted to uphold the veto of Senate Bill 175, which would have allowed heirs to control the commercial use of a celebrity’s identity.
Dubbed the ‘Salinger’ bill because it was sought by the heirs of deceased author J.D. Salinger, the legislation would have allowed beneficiaries of a celebrity to control the commercial use of the person’s identity up to 70 years after the death.
The Senate voted for the bill 13-10, short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override.
Opponents of the bill said it would violate free speech rights.
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Ted Seifer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.