Archives: July 2015

July 2015 Newsletter

California Patients Prevail in Latest MICRA Challenge Months after California voters expressed continued support for long-standing and effective medical liability laws by rejecting Proposition 46, legal challenges continue to threaten access to patient care. Late last month, justices in a California appeals court upheld the landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) that has kept health care accessible and affordable across the state for four decades. The plaintiff’s argument centered on the fact that MICRA had been enacted many years ago, and should be overturned now that California no longer faces a medical liability crisis. The justices disagreed, stating there was “no reasonably plausible purpose” to overturn the law that has many times been declared constitutional. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, along with the California Medical Association, California Hospital Association and California Dental Association, backed the defense of MICRA and filed an amicus brief with the courts last year. “The non-economic damages cap … is rationally related to the legitimate state interest of ensuring access to affordable health care,” the brief stated. “The importance of MICRA has by no means waned over time.” While patients and judges have spoken out in the support…

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Letter: Medical lawsuit reform must include a better liability cap

Regarding the June 23 Another Voice, “Medical malpractice needs more thoughtful reform,” legislators need to act carefully in addressing laws affecting medical malpractice lawsuits. Legislative reforms must bring legitimate redress where it is needed; however, care must be taken to insure that new legislation does not decrease access to the best care in the world. Regressive measures that increase already exorbitant premium rates may accelerate the departure of New York’s physicians to other states, thus aggravating the existing physician access problems across many regions of the state. Proposals that alter the current law governing the statute of limitations would create one of the longest time periods in the country to bring lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. Most states that delay the running out of their statute of limitation until the discovery of medical negligence balance the cost impact by providing reasonable limitations on awards. New York has no such limitations on medical liability awards. New York State is already universally recognized to have one of the most hostile medical practice climates in the United States, having by far and away the highest total and per capita medical liability payouts in the country. Against this backdrop, legislation to increase lawsuits without…

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Another legal hit for medical malpractice caps in Florida

The case started with a dental assistant who went into surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome and ended up suffering a perforated esophagus. Now, nearly eight years later, the case could be another blow to a controversial 2003 law that limited the amounts of money injured patients can receive in medical-malpractice cases. A South Florida appeals court ruled last week that the law’s limits on pain-and-suffering damages — known in legal parlance as non-economic damages — are unconstitutional in personal-injury cases, such as the case of Susan Kalitan, who was injured after tubes were inserted into her mouth and esophagus as part of an anesthesia process. The 4th District Court of Appeal’s decision followed a Florida Supreme Court opinion last year that similarly rejected the malpractice law’s limits on non-economic damages in wrongful-death cases. The appeals court cited the Supreme Court’s opinion and said the damage limits violate equal-protection rights under the state Constitution. The 14-page decision, issued by a three-judge panel of the appeals court, said the “caps are unconstitutional not only in wrongful death actions, but also in personal injury suits as they violate equal protection. … Whereas the caps on non-economic damages in (the section of state law) fully…

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Medical liability damages cap upheld

The nation’s leading medical liability reform law has been upheld yet again in a California court of appeal, with the court finding that the state’s cap on noneconomic damages is constitutional. It’s another victory to ensure physicians can afford to stay in practice and continue to provide care to the patients in their communities. In Chan v. Curran, the plaintiff attempted to prove that the non-economic damages cap under Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), California’s historic tort reform law, should be struck down. The cap is set at $250,000. The plaintiff claimed the MICRA cap was unconstitutional for a few reasons: MICRA was put in place to tamp down California’s medical liability insurance crisis in the 1970s, but times have changed and the crisis no longer exists. The court rejected this argument, noting that the Supreme Court of the United States rejected a similar argument. The noneconomic damages cap discourages attorneys from taking cases on contingency, so it limits access to the courts. The court held that parties in civil cases are not guaranteed the right to counsel. MICRA interferes with the right to jury trial. The court rejected this argument based on previous cases that held the same….

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