NU Online News Service, Feb. 24, 2004, 1:09 p.m. EST, Washington – Some members of Congress want to protect baby doctors from sky-high malpractice judgments.[@@]

The Senate is debating a bill, S. 2061, that would limit non-economic and punitive damages awards in malpractice lawsuits involving obstetrical or gynecological goods and services.

The bill reflects an effort by the Senate leadership to make incremental advances in medical malpractice reform, by focusing on specialties that have been especially hard hit by rising medical malpractice insurance premiums.

Under S. 2061, non-economic damage awards in ob/gyn claims would be capped at $250,000. Punitive damages would be limited to $250,000, or 200% of the economic damages, whichever were greater.

In addition, punitive damages could be awarded only if the plaintiff proved that the defendant acted with malicious intent or deliberately failed to take steps to avoid the injury.

The legislation also empowers courts to restrict payment of contingency fees to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Links to the bill text and other information are on the Web at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:s.02061: