Court Upholds State’s Medical Liability Cap on Noneconomic Damages
The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged that her husband's death was caused byÂ the negligence of a physicianÂ atÂ Modesto Surgical Associates.
A jury found the physician and Modesto Surgical Associates to be negligent and awarded the woman $1 million in economic damages and $6 million in noneconomic damages. The physician admitted no wrongdoing in the case.
However, the court approved an appeal from the physician to reduce the award in accordance with the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act that then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed in 1975. MICRA caps pain-and-suffering awards in malpractice cases at $250,000.
The woman appealed the ruling.
Details of the Ruling
According to the latest ruling,Â the damages cap was put in place based on valid reasoning and does not compromise the rights of citizens.
In its ruling, the court said that the California Supreme Court already has determined that MICRA is constitutional. The ruling noted that the statute "does not violate equal protection rights because the Legislature rationally could conclude a medical malpractice crisis existed that required legislative intervention to reduce medical malpractice insurance costs, and that [MICRA] is rationally related to the cost reduction goal."
Alicia Wagnon, legal counsel for the California Medical Association, said the decision provides stronger protection for physicians against future challenges to the law (Gallegos, American Medical News, 9/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.