California Voters To Consider Raising
Four-Decade-Old Cap On Medical Malpractice Awards
Send a link to a friend
[May 16, 2014]
By Jennifer Chaussee
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California in
November will vote on whether to raise a four-decade-old cap on medical
malpractice awards to $1.1 million, from $250,000, officials said on
Thursday, likely ensuring a bitter and costly fight between lawyers
backing the measure and doctors who oppose it.
Representatives of patients have tried for at least 20 years to
persuade the state to raise the limit on pain-and-suffering awards,
which was set in the 1970s and is not indexed to inflation.
Opponents say a higher cap will raise healthcare costs and choke off
access to care.
Consumer advocates successfully collected hundreds of thousands of
signatures in support of placing the measure on the ballot,
according to the California Secretary of State, which approved
Initiative #13-0016 for the ballot.
"Patient safety laws have not been modernized for 38 years and as a
result dangerous doctors are not deterred and families victimized by
medical negligence cannot get access to justice," said Jamie Court,
president of the non-profit Consumer Watchdog, a co-sponsor of the
The initiative would also require random drug testing of doctors in
the wake of growing concern about over-prescription of addictive
pain medications, including among doctors, Court said.
Doctors would also have to check a statewide drug history database
before prescribing certain drugs to patients who may be collecting
prescriptions from different doctors, Court said.
Staunch opposition has mounted from the California Medical
Association and other representatives of doctors, as well as medical
providers such as clinics and hospitals, making proposed changes
difficult to enact.
In March, California Medical Association president Richard Thorp
said lifting the existing $250,000 cap for medical malpractice
awards would make health care costs rise even further, as doctors
would be forced to spend more on malpractice insurance.
[to top of second column]
Opponents of the measure, including insurance companies and medical
groups, have raised more than $33 million in 2014, far outpacing the
less than $700,000 raised by proponents, campaign finance records
showed, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A bill introduced in February that would have raised the limit under
the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA, to $500,000,
failed to gain traction.
(Reporting by Jennifer Chaussee in San Francisco; Writing by Eric M.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.