Important State-Based Liability Protections Are Under Attack!

March 1, 2022

ISMIE routinely monitors legal and legislative cases relevant to the practice of medicine. There are currently some legal challenges in high profile states with noneconomic damages caps. Here are a couple of recent items of interest:

A ballot measure aimed at repealing the historic Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) has qualified to be presented to California voters in 2022. MICRA was enacted as a state law in 1975 and limits pain and suffering noneconomic damages for medical liability cases to a $250,000 cap. California’s MICRA law has been a model for other states and previous attempts to repeal the law have failed.
Another voter initiative California will consider would place a limit on the fees that personal injury lawyers could collect. The measure is proposing contingency fees of 20% of the monetary judgments, which is much lower than the usual one-third or more they can typically claim in the “Golden State.”
A lawsuit making its way through the courts is attempting to challenge Texas’ cap on noneconomic damages. The $250,000 cap is at the core of the state’s 2003 medical liability reform law designed to compensate injured patients and not bankrupt physicians or force them to leave the state to practice elsewhere. The Texas Medical Association claims that access to care in the state has vastly improved since the law was passed.
The lawsuit went to trial in early February. The plaintiffs argue that the cap on noneconomic damages violates the Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which contains the right to a jury trial. The physicians and healthcare organizations being sued for alleged negligence argue that the Seventh Amendment does not apply to state law, and even if it did, a damages cap does not violate it. Texas’ noneconomic damages cap has survived previous challenges at both the state and federal levels.
We will keep you posted on these cases and others that impact medical liability issues. If you have questions or need additional information, please contact us by email.
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