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.
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:
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:
Common forms of medical malpractice include: