“Medical providers should not be shielded from the consequences of causing injuries more than any other group”
Thursday, June 10, 2010
In a commentary published in the June issue of Los Angeles Lawyer, the magazine of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, attorney Heather E. Stern describes some of the injustices perpetrated by MICRA, California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act that limits the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded to victims of medical negligence. When it was passed in 1975, the law capped those damages at $250,000 with no provision to adjust for inflation. That amount 35 years ago is equivalent to about $60,000 in 2010.
Who are the victims denied justice by MICRA’s damage cap? Stern mentions some of them:
James Van Buren’s doctors diagnosed him with a perianal abscess and recommended surgery, during which Van Buren’s doctor negligently severed one of Van Buren’s muscles, causing Van Buren to suffer permanent fecal incontinence. At trial, the jury determined his damages for a lifetime of incontinence to be $2.5 million. Following MICRA, the judge reduced the amount to the cap, $250,000…
Other examples include the plaintiff…who had to live with painful physical disfigurement and scars, and several women I know who lost a fetus late in pregnancy due to medical negligence. These are primarily emotional, not economic, injuries, but they are injuries nonetheless.
Bear in mind that if the same doctor had caused the same injuries in, say, a car crash, the victim could receive full compensation as determined by a jury. But if the injuries are caused by medical care, MICRA overrules what a jury thinks is fair compensation.
Stern goes on to write, “medical providers should not be shielded from the consequences of causing injuries more than any other group. People deserve to experience the consequences of their mistakes…”