NU Online News Service, May 1, 2:45 p.m. — Washington
Punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits would be capped at the greater of $250,000 or two times the compensatory damages under bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the House of Representatives.
The legislation, H.R. 4600, would establish a variety of new tort law rules that would apply solely to medical malpractice cases.
Trial lawyers and other critics say the bill will reduce the incentives physicians and hospitals now have to treat patients with the highest degree of care, at a time when providers are facing increasing financial pressure to cut corners.
Supporters of the bill say it is necessary to control what is called a medical malpractice “crisis.”
“Personal injury lawyer attacks on doctors and other members of the health care community have driven up health care costs, decreased the quality of care patients receive and prevented millions of Americans from accessing the health care system,” says Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, Washington.
“Personal injury lawyers have benefited at the expense of consumers for far too long,” she says.
H.R. 4600 would protect patients by implementing many of the same medical malpractice reforms that have been successful in California, Ignagni says.
Ken Schloman, Washington counsel for the Alliance of American Insurers, Downers Grove, Ill., says H.R. 4600 is a very reasonable bill that is worthy of consideration.
He particularly praises the legislation for encouraging structured settlements and addressing the issue of joint and several liability.
Introduction the legislation comes in the wake of the release of a survey on the effect of litigation on the practice of medicine released by a new organization called Common Good, Washington.
Leaders of the organization include George McGovern, the former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate, and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.