by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Supreme Court knocked down another part of the so-called tort reform law today.
In a Sebastian County case alleging malpractice in treatment of a burn, the court said the legislature had violated the separation of doctrine powers by specifying who could be considered an expert in medical malpractice cases. The law specified that an expert had to be a specialist in the same field as the defendant. The court said that provision also violated the "inherent authority" of the court to protect the rights of litigants.
The court reversed a summary judgment for a Fort Smith hospital and two doctors and sent it back for trial.
Here's the decision. Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote it and there was no dissent. The opinion said the court had set its own rules for admission of expert testimony. It said the legislature made a procedural, rather than substantive, change in the law, and that was outside the legislature's power.