Archives: September 2020

Health Workers Need Better COVID-19 Liability Protections

SOURCE: Law 360 This week, the U.S. crossed the grim threshold of having lost over 1,000 health care workers to COVID-19.[1] We owe them and those who serve in their place a massive debt of gratitude, awe and respect. Health care providers, from certified nursing assistants all the way up to administrative leaders, are facing challenges never before seen in our lifetime. Despite this, they walk into work every day knowing that the patients they are trying to save are infected with a deadly, highly contagious virus. The word “hero” comes to mind. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has also exacted an emotional toll on our health care providers. A recent study published in The Lancet surveyed over 2,000 frontline nurses who were caring for COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China. It showed that nurses treating coronavirus patients experienced high work burnout, a high level of fear, emotional exhaustion, anxiety and depression.[2] There’s no doubt that health care workers on our shores are suffering from these same mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic. It is our societal obligation to ensure that these aides, nurses and doctors — these heroes — are treated fairly in courts of law, with full recognition…

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September 2020 Newsletter

Oregon court errs in liability ruling The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled against the state’s limits on non-economic damages for personal injury cases, with the state’s wrongful death cap remaining, putting an attractive place to practice medicine in limbo. Initially enacted in 1987, the reasonable limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages was found unconstitutional in 1999, but reinstated when the court overruled itself in 2016, before again changing its mind this year. This roller coaster ride created significant uncertainty for patients and physicians alike. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, the Oregon Medical Association (OMA) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) filed an amicus brief with the court urging the limits be maintained. “While physicians continue to provide quality healthcare to their patients as they have done for centuries, the burdens on the profession continue to increase. No one does their best work while under duress and physicians are no exception. For all patients to be able to receive quality health care and for our medical system to continue functioning, there must be reasonable limits on liability,” the brief stated. Unfortunately, the court ruled in a different direction. In striking down…

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How Oregon’s top court erred in striking down noneconomic damages cap

SOURCE: AMA For three decades, Oregon had a $500,000 limit on noneconomic damages awarded in medical and other liability cases. It helped keep medical liability insurance rates from rising to unaffordable levels and made Oregon a more attractive place to practice medicine. But the Oregon Supreme Court has abolished the cap, ruling that the statute the legislature enacted in 1987 violated the state constitution’s remedy clause. “We have no doubt that [the statute] was intended to reduce insurance costs and improve insurance availability,” the court said. But by “enacting the damages cap in [the statute] the legislature left defendants’ common-law duty of care intact, but deprived injured plaintiffs of the right to recover damages assessed for breach of that duty.” The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies, the Oregon Medical Association (OMA) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) had urged the state’s high court to rule in the other direction. In a jointly filed amicus brief supporting the noneconomic damages cap, they told the court that striking down the cap would make Oregon a less attractive place for physicians to practice because they would be more likely to face meritless lawsuits and…

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