Throughout January, 2008, Virginia injury lawyer, Avery T. “Sandy” Waterman, Jr., Esq., lobbied the Virginia General Assembly in opposition to House Bill 382. The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association recognized him for his “tireless and effective efforts”. On January 30, 2008, the Bill was carried over to the 2009 Session.
Although billed ostensibly as a mere “clarification” of existing law, in truth H.B. 382 actually sought to overrule legislatively the decision of the Virginia Supreme Court in Riverside Hosp., Inc. v. Johnson, 272 Va. 518, 636 S.E.2d 416 (2006). That landmark Virginia patient fall case successfully was tried and defended on appeal by Mr. Waterman. It reflects the longstanding law of Virginia.
Among other things, the Riverside v. Johnson opinion upholds patient rights to all records of health care facts – regardless how created, titled, routed, kept and/or styled self-servingly by healthcare providers. Balancing the competing social interest involved, the Virginia Supreme Court equitably found that genuine peer review and other quality committee deliberations were privileged under statute, Va. Code Ann. §8.01-581.17; but that the underlying patient care facts were not privileged (regardless whether considered by such a committee).
H.B. 382, and its 2007 forerunner H.B. 3090, sought to secret permanently any patient care facts ostensibly created under committee auspices. Thereby healthcare providers could legitimate and extend their decades-long intricate systems of laundering “patient charts” of incriminating facts of medical malpractice by sequestering them in private “double books”.
The main proponent and beneficiary in fact of H.B. 382 is the Virginia Hospitals & Healthcare Association (“VHHA”) and its 104 constituent healthcare facility members. In the 2008 Session, that activist trade association was joined by the Virginia Bar Association, whose health law committee was comprised by large defense firms representing VHHA member interests. Such anti-patient special interest legislation must be stopped.