Montana maintains liability limits, but risks remain

A jackpot jury award in Montana was reduced in alignment with the state’s reasonable limits on non-economic damages, but not before a sixteen-month period of uncertainty that left the medical liability climate at risk.  

In 2022, a jury awarded the state’s largest verdict of $6 million, all of which were non-economic damages, which remained in limbo as an appellate court judge deliberated on the constitutionality of the award given Montana’s $250,000 limit on such damages.

Earlier this month, the judge released a decision affirming the $250,000 limit and reducing the payout to the patient.

In his decision, the judge cited specific precedent as the reason for implementing application of the limit, holding to the fact that the law in place allows plaintiffs to seek full legal recourse and that the limits on non-economic damages did not infringe on a plaintiff’s rights.

While it was a win for Montana’s medical practitioners, the judge criticized the law itself, leaving it likely that a legislative challenge is on the horizon – in addition to the fact that the case is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

To read more about the threats to Montana’s current medical liability climate, click here.


Continued questions on the future of health care AI

As artificial/augmented intelligence (AI) becomes more integrated into medical practices, there continues to be more questions than answers about liability risks and potential reforms needed.

Today, some physicians are using AI to pinpoint imaging diagnoses, recommend medications, and substitute chatbots for patient communication. But are these tools a product or a service, and what protections do practitioners have if they choose to implement them into their practice?

A Bloomberg Law analysis highlights how this uncertainty is complicated by the evolving nature of AI, making it challenging to pinpoint if medical negligence occurs.

A look at legal cases involving physical AI tools, such as surgical robots, provides insights into potential future litigation involving generative AI. Testing the liability limits of AI could mean looking past the physician delivering care.

“If there is a flaw in the software itself, if the data used to feed the large language model is incorrect or biased, or if a mistake was made when a query was answered, it is possible that a software developer or AI engineer could be held responsible,” per the analysis.

Current Biden Administration guidance touches on AI governance and concerns of bias, privacy, and ethics. But the question of liability in healthcare AI remains ambiguous, and while there is an understanding of the role health care providers play regarding their duty of care to patients, the role of those behind the scenes is currently less clear.

Click here to read more about the undiagnosed risks of health care AI.


Florida legislators revisit reform in compromise legislation

Two decades since Florida first passed reasonable limits on non-economic damages that were later overturned in the courts, state legislators are once again attempting to raise the importance of the issue among the state’s patients and physicians.

In a compromise to those pushing for changes to Florida’s wrongful death laws, a proposal is on the table to limit non-economic damages to $500,000 per claimant, rising to $750,000 for health care facilities, and dropping to $150,000 in emergency medical cases.

The proposal has the endorsement of the Florida Medical Association.

“We’re working on if there is a way of tying those two issues together, that the wrongful death bill could go, and we get some meaningful med-mal reform,” Florida Medical Association CEO Chris Clark said.

Although it has been many years since liability reform gained momentum in the Florida legislature, proponents have reason to be hopeful this time around. Since the laws were struck down in the early 2000s, Supreme Court justices have turned over, and today’s court leans more conservative.

Carolyn Johnson, vice president of government affairs at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and a spokesperson for the Consumer Protection Coalition highlighted the boost it would give to Florida’s health care workforce.

“Florida already faces a significant health care workforce shortage that is projected to only increase over time. Passage of this bill will help bridge that gap and ensure Florida families have access to a competent health care workforce to support Florida’s growing and aging population.”

The amended bill cleared the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee but faces an uncertain future in the state House. To read more about support for the compromise liability reform legislation in Florida, click here.