VIRGINIA: State Supreme Ct. Upholds $1M Liability Cap
The Virginia Supreme Court on Friday unanimously upheld a law limiting medical malpractice damages to $1 million, a decision which increases the likelihood that the state legislature will consider an increase in the cap to reflect inflation. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the justices ruled that although the "medical malpractice cap does not violate any constitutional guarantees," Justice Cynthia Kinser said that the limit is "unjust because it concentrates its cost solely on those whose losses are the greatest." However, she wrote, "I cannot be influenced by such concerns when deciding the constitutionality of a challenged statute. I can only express my views with the hope that the General Assembly will adopt a more equitable method by which to ensure the availability of health care." Richmond Academy of Medicine President Dr. John O'Bannon III applauded the court's decision, but agreed, "Now it's time to push for reasonable adjustments ... adjust the cap for patients, not for increased lawyer awards." Jeffrey Breit, president of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, said his organization will push for increases that reflect inflation (Cooper, 1/9).
Not All Smiles
Not everyone was happy with the verdict: Charles Cuthbert Jr., representing the plaintiffs who brought the suit, said, "The decision means, unfortunately, that those who are injured most severely by medical negligence will continue to be arbitrarily prevented from receiving fair compensation." The Washington Post reports the decision "almost assures action in the General Assembly session that opens Wednesday." State Sen. William Mims (R) said, "I think the expectation of that decision required everyone to say it's time to look at the statute. Hopefully, the momentum will continue." Officials for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association also voiced their openness to further reforms of the liability cap (Goldstein, 1/9).