MALPRACTICE AWARDS: State Supreme Court Rules Defendant Must Pay Full Value
The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday "that victims of medical malpractice are entitled to the full current value of awards for 'pain and suffering' and that defendants are not entitled to discounts just because they choose to pay in installments over time." The Los Angeles Times reports that at issue was "which side in a malpractice lawsuit gets to take advantage of the power of compound interest." In the case at hand, a family receiving a $240,000 damage award from Los Angeles County argued that they should receive the lump sum so they could invest it, earning nearly $900,000 over the lifetime of their injured son. The county wanted to meet the award by investing about $60,000 "in an annuity that would make payments over time." The court did not grant the family "the lump sum, but did rule that [it] was entitled to whatever payments the current value of $240,000 would generate over [the boy's] lifetime." Malpractice lawyers "hailed" yesterday's ruling, contending the state's $250,000 cap on malpractice suits "already tightly limits the amount patients are able to recover." An attorney for the county "said Monday that while he was disappointed with the court's ruling on the value of the award, he was pleased that the court upheld the county's right to pay the judgement over time." The Times reports that the decision "may be politically important because it extinguishes an issue that had inflamed" debate over the state's $250,000 cap for pain and suffering awards, which trial attorneys "have long argued ... is far too low for patients harmed today" -- 23 years after the law was passed (Marquis, 12/8). Click malpractice for past coverage of the issue.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.