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Bill Seeking to Cap Malpractice Damages Passes House

A bill seeking to cap noneconomic damages that could be collected in medical malpractice lawsuits passed the House of Representatives yesterday. Should the bill become law, injured plaintiffs would be allowed to collect no more than $250,000 in noneconomic damages for cases of medical malpractice.

Bill Introduces Multiple Tort Reforms That Would Dampen Litigation

According to Medscape, the Protecting Access to Primary Care Act (PAPCA) passed the Republican-controlled House with a mostly party-line vote of 218 to 210.

Supporters of the bill say PAPCA will reduce premiums and deter frivolous lawsuits; however, opponents view the bill as an infringement on injured plaintiffs’ rights and state prerogatives.

Currently 22 states have caps on noneconomic damages and five others limit total damages an injured malpractice plaintiff can collect. Most recently, legislators in Florida attempted to limit noneconomic damages to $500,000 in malpractice cases and $1 million in cases of catastrophic injury. The state’s high court struck down the law claiming the restrictions were arbitrary and unconstitutional.

In addition to capping noneconomic malpractice damages to $250,000, the House bill would:

  • Exempt clinicians who order a drug or medical device from class-action and product liability lawsuits.
  • Require damages exceeding $50,000 be paid in installments.
  • Reduce the statute of limitations for a malpractice suit to 3 years after the wrongful act or 1 year after the plaintiff discovers it (whichever comes first).

Medical Malpractice Rates in the United Sates

According to the BMJ, medical errors result in 251,454 deaths every year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. Even when not fatal, medical errors can result in a life-time of pain and disability.

It is important to note, not all medical errors will result in a medical malpractice claim. In fact, medical malpractice requires that plaintiffs prove:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed
  • The doctor was negligent in their diagnosis or treatment
  • The doctor’s negligence was the cause of the injury claimed
  • The injury claimed led to specific damages

Common forms of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Childbirth injuries
  • Medication errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Surgery errors

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