LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Supreme Court is considering whether the state legislature can set rules for how to file medical malpractice lawsuits.

The General Assembly passed a law requiring all medical malpractice lawsuits be screened by a special review panel before they go to trial. The goal is to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits. But critics say the law violates the constitutional rights of patients by delaying their access to the courts.

The justices heard and grilled attorneys for both sides of the controversial law on Wednesday.

Matthew Kuhn, the attorney representing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, argued that frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of malpractice insurance, and drive doctors out of business.

“This is a serious problem for Kentucky,” said Kuhn. “We have a shortage of all kinds of medical professionals. Clearly, the legislature has to be able to do something.

J. Guthrie True, who filed the class action suit challenging the law, said it illegally limits quick citizen access to the court system.

“We believe this legislation is unconstitutional,” True argued. “This is an obstruction of the courthouse door.”

In an interview, True said the law is discriminatory, benefiting doctors at the expense of medical malpractice victims.

“This is an intent to discourage the bringing of these claims, regardless of whether they have merit, or they supposedly don't have merit. That's the intent and purpose of it,” True told WDRB News.

Kuhn disagreed, pointing out that the panel's decisions are not binding, but can simply be used as evidence during trial.

“It's not about blocking access to the courts. It's making sure that things work effectively once they get there,” he said.

The court will decide, ultimately, whether justice delayed is really justice denied. There is no deadline for a decision. The justices will likely take several months to issue a ruling.

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