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 for the law, personal injury lawyers continue to push for the last word. To read more about the latest reiteration of support for medical liability laws in California, click here.

Florida Court Ruling Opens the Door for Higher Costs, Limited Care

Florida patients face a less than sunny outlook after a state appeals court ruled that reasonable limits on non-economic damages, enacted by then-Governor Jeb Bush in 2003, were unconstitutional and could not be applied to personal injury cases filed in the state.

For over 10 years, reasonable limits of $500,000 in non-economic damages headed off the worst of the medical liability crisis faced by other states, including New York and Illinois.

A study conducted earlier this year shows that Florida already faces a shortage of 7,000 physicians by 2025, a number likely to be exacerbated by an environment that encourages meritless lawsuits driven by personal injury lawyers.

But without comprehensive reform at the federal level, and the certainty it brings to patients, physicians, and policymakers, the liability climate Florida and elsewhere remains clouded by differences in political opinion and agendas.

To read more about the recent ruling in Florida, click here.

Supporters of Liability Reform Continue Conversation in New York

Medical liability continues to be a hot topic in New York, following a failed attempt to extend the statute of limitations for lawsuits in a state already overextended by medical lawsuit abuse and an unfavorable liability environment for physicians.

While the drive to change the statute of limitations did not progress in the legislature before summer recess, physicians and patient advocates are taking advantage of the opportunity to continue to address issues with the state’s liability climate and focus on solutions that maintain access to care and reverse the exodus of physicians leaving the state.

Dr. Joseph Maldonado, President of the Medical Society of the State of New York, writes in an op-ed published in the Buffalo News that the Empire State already has the highest medical liability payouts in the nation and that “legislation to increase lawsuits,” such as proposals to increase the statute of limitations, “without addressing these exorbitant costs would not only make these problems worse, but also further erode our patients’ access to care.”

Extending the time to bring forth a lawsuit would result in a longer period of time between the adverse event and legal action than currently exists in any other state–a window of time that personal injury attorneys take advantage of to file meritless lawsuits.

To read Dr. Maldonado’s opinion piece in full, click here.