Ballot initiative to adjust non-economic damages in med mal cases sent to Calif. AG

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jul 25, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- A ballot initiative that potentially would undermine California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act was submitted to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for title and summary Wednesday.

MICRA allows for unlimited economic and punitive damages for patients in medical malpractice cases, as well as an additional $250,000 for non-economic damages.

The initiative would adjust MICRA's limit on non-economic damages to reflect any increase in inflation since the law was enacted in 1975 and require an additional annual adjustment for inflation going forward.

Kim Stone, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, said the proposed initiative -- which she contends is supported by trial lawyers who would benefit -- could not come at a worse time.

"California is in the middle of implementing the (Patient Protection and) Affordable Care Act and working to accommodate millions of new patients," she said in a statement Wednesday. "The worst thing we could do is create greater incentives to sue medical providers and drive up their liability costs when there is already a shortage of providers to care for these new patients.

"MICRA was enacted because too many providers could not afford the excessive medical liability costs in our state. The law has been left as is by the Legislature and the courts for a reason: it is good public policy that fairly compensates patients while limiting health care costs and improving access to care."

A recent study showed that raising MICRA's limit on non-economic damages from $250,000 to $500,000 would, alone, raise health care costs in California by at least $9.5 billion annually.

The proposed initiative also would create new drug testing and disciplinary requirements for physicians.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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