Medical Malpractice

Voters may decide whether California's cap on med-mal damages should be raised

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Critics of a California law that caps medical malpractice, non-economic damages at $250,000 say they have enough signatures for a ballot initiative that would raise the limit if passed.

A tort liability law enacted in 1975, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act was borrowed by many other states as well, Bloomberg News reports. Opponents would like to see the non-economic damages cap lifted to more than $1 million, reportedly to account for inflation.

The proposed legislation, titled the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, may be on the California ballot in November. While an increase in the damages cap is one aspect of the voter initiative, it is also would require that physicians view a statewide prescription-drug database before giving patients medication, and that physicians report colleagues they believe to be medically negligent or impaired by drugs and alcohol.

The act is named after siblings, ages 7 and 10, who were killed by a drunk driver, the San Francisco Gate reports. The driver, Jimena Barreto, was also high on prescription drugs during the accident, according to Bloomberg.

A website for the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act asserts that Barreto was addicted to prescription drugs, and had numerous prescriptions for narcotic painkillers. Supporters of the ballot measure say that Barreto’s doctors should have been held responsible in the children’s death.

Related article:

ABA Journal: “Med-mal damages cap violates Florida Constitution, state supreme court says”

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