(CN) – The Arkansas Supreme Court revived a medical malpractice action against a nonprofit hospital’s pooled-liability program, ruling that a 2007 legislative amendment allows direct-action lawsuits against pooled-liability funds.
Charles and Linda Archer filed a malpractice action after their son, Mason, was hospitalized at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center following a car accident. They accused doctors and staff members of negligently treating their son, resulting in his paralysis from the chest down.
The Archers’ lawsuit did not initially include the St. Louis Pooled Comprehensive Liability Program as a defendant, because the state high court had ruled two months earlier that the liability pool was not considered insurance “for purposes of the direct-action statute.”
But state legislators responded to that ruling by extending the direct-action law to include pooled-liability funds, prompting the Archers to add the program as a defendant.
The liability pool successfully moved for dismissal, claiming the amendment could not be applied retroactively.
On appeal, the Archers argued that legislators meant for it to act retroactively, giving injured parties another avenue for recovery.
The state high court agreed. It concluded that the amendment “was clearly enacted … to permit parties to recover directly from pooled-liability funds.”
The court reiterated its position that “direct-action statutes are remedial in nature and are liberally construed for the benefit of the injured parties.”
The justices reinstated the liability pool as a defendant and remanded.