Gov. Deval Patrick signs landmark health care and "workers'
right to know" bills
The dog days of summer brought along an active bill signing
period. Gov. Deval L. Patrick signed two bills that the
Massachusetts Bar Association has been closely monitoring and
The health care cost control bill was signed by the governor on
recently passed on Aug. 6. The bill contains specific language that
facilitates an approach of disclosure, apology and offer (DA&O)
to address medical malpractice claims.
An historic and unprecedented partnership between physicians and
attorneys in Massachusetts has led to these significant reforms to
medical liability system, allowing for improvements to resolving
malpractice cases that could greatly benefit patients by reducing
some unnecessary and protracted lawsuits while improving patient
Changes include provisions for a six-month, pre-litigation
resolution period that affords the time to go through a DA&O
process with sharing of all pertinent medical records by the
patient, full disclosure by providers, and for statements of
apology by providers to be inadmissible in court.
"Fairness is the child of transparency. Too many victims of
medical errors are delayed or denied needed compensation due to
lack of transparency. The MBA is pleased and honored to have worked
with MMS, the governor, and the legislature to create a law that is
in the best interests of patients in that it requires full
disclosure, and encourages early resolution while also protecting a
patient's right to seek legal assistance to ensure fair
compensation," said Massachusetts Bar Association Vice President
Jeffrey N. Catalano, a partner at Todd & Weld in Boston.
"Hopefully, full disclosure will also nurture learning that will
reduce medical errors in Massachusetts that cost too many injuries
and deaths each year," Catalano said. "Importantly, this
collaborative effort resulted from the fact that both doctors and
lawyers appreciate that disclosure of mistakes also allows healing
for both the patient and the physician."
During the afternoon of Aug. 6, Patrick signed into law House
Bill 4034 -- the "workers' right to know" bill -- which requires
employers to provide temporary workers with written notice of key
details of their work assignments and important legal protections
available to them.
The MBA has been part of working coalition, including MassCOSH
and Greater Boston Legal Services, that has advocated forcefully
for the passage of the Temp Worker Right to Know bill for the past
The law will end the suffering of temporary workers, who often
have limited knowledge of their legal protections and rights
available to them. If injured on job sites, temporary workers are
sometimes left abandoned at the hospital and may not even know the
correct name of their employer. A temporary worker's job location
may change before he or she can return after an injury, leaving the
burden of medical care and other expenses with the injured worker's
family or the commonwealth.
"This critical legislation does the right thing; ensures that
the state's more than 1,000 temporary workers are protected from
exploitation and hazardous working conditions. When workers are
abused, the results range from inadequate pay to broken bones,
amputated limbs, brain injury and even death," said Douglas K.
Sheff, MBA treasurer and chair of the association's Workplace
Safety Task Force.
"For over a year we have been fighting for these rights for
working families. This victory underscores the constant concern on
the part of attorneys at the Massachusetts Bar Association for
fairness throughout our communities and for workers throughout the
commonwealth," Sheff said.
Also on Aug. 6, Patrick signed into law House Bill 4332 relative
to student access to educational services and exclusions from
school. The bill requires school districts to allow students who
are excluded for more than 10 consecutive school days to continue
making academic progress by using alternative educational services,
including tutoring, alternative placement, Saturday school and
online or distance learning. The bill also requires school
districts to track and report data about all suspensions and
expulsions for use in identifying trends in the use of school
exclusions. The MBA support of this bill emanated from the Juvenile
& Child Welfare Law Section Council.