La Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Medical Malpractice Cap
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled today in Arrington v. Galen-Med Inc. The Court set aside and vacated the district court decision, citing the March 2012 La. Supreme Court ruling in the Oliver v. Magnolia Clinic case. The case is remanded back to the district court to reconsider its ruling.
In the Oliver case, the La Supreme Court ruled in a 6-1 vote that the $500,000 cap in the medical malpractice act is constitutional. This decision reversed the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision finding the cap unconstitutional. The Court noted that the effects of inflation in economic changes related to the cap are of no consequence. Additionally, the Court stated that once it is satisfied that legislation does not infringe upon constitutional rights, any perceived infirmity with the cap is to be addressed by the legislature. If you have any questions, please contact LSMS Director of Legal Affairs
Measure limiting malpractice lawsuits coming up for vote in Congress
by Bruce Alpert, Times-Picayune
The U.S. House is slated to vote Wednesday on legislation that would eliminate a 15-member board counted on by the Obama administration to keep Medicare costs in check as the 2010 health overhaul legislation is implemented. The Republican bill would offset the lost savings by new limits on malpractice payments.
It would restrict non-economic damages to $250,000, allow courts to limit attorney contingency fees and cap punitive damages to the greater of two times the economic losses, or $250,000. It also would deny all punitive damages for drugs and medical devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration or otherwise in compliance with FDA standards.
Most of the debate, though, centered on Republican criticism of the Affordable Care Act, enacted two years ago by a Democratic Congress, and designed to provide health insurance coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
Republicans, who say the law is overly bureaucratic and controlling in its mandate that Americans get health insurance, either with help from their employers or government subsidies, want to repeal the law.
But with Obama still in the White House, the GOP is focusing efforts on rolling back specific provisions, including the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board.
Republicans say the unelected advisory board is given too much power to take away benefits from seniors.
"Hard-working American families want their health-care decisions to stay between the patient and their doctor, not 15 unelected bureaucrats in Washington who can ration health-care coverage, and our bill repeals President Obama's health-care rationing board while also putting common sense medical liability reforms in place, reducing health-care costs by billions of dollars in the process," said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson.
Democrats said the board probably won't be called on to trim Medicare costs until 2022 because of cost-containment measures already written into the bill. And once the board does act, its recommendations are likely to center on savings obtained by coordinating care, getting rid of waste, incentivizing best practices and prioritizing primary care.
The board is prohibited by law from recommending any policies that ration care, raise taxes, increase premiums or cost-sharing, restrict benefits or modify who is eligible for Medicare.
Congress can vote to veto board rulings, but only if they find comparable savings with other actions.
On malpractice overhaul, Republicans said the changes would reduce medical costs and help provide more access by allowing doctors to practice without as much concern that frivolous lawsuits will jeopardize their livelihood. Democrats argued the proposal would leave patients without protection from faulty treatment.
"Under this bill, victims of medical malpractice have little hope of being justly compensated for their loss, regardless of the extent of their pain or suffering," said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans. "I am deeply concerned that women, children, and the elderly would disproportionately suffer the brunt of these new restrictions."
Some members, including a few Republicans, argued that the malpractice rules would interfere with state malpractice laws. But Neal Patel, spokesman for Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, a doctor and a co-sponsor of the legislation, said it won't block Louisiana's current caps and the health court it established to hear malpractice litigation.
The Louisiana Supreme Court this week on a 6-1 vote ruled in Oliver v. Magnolia Clinic the $500,000 cap in the medical malpractice act is constitutional. This decision reverses the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision finding the cap unconstitutional to the extent it “includes nurse practitioners within its ambit.” The Court noted that the effects of inflation in economic changes related to the cap are of no consequence. The Court stated that once it is satisfied that legislation does not infringe upon constitutional rights any perceived infirmity with the cap is to be addressed by the legislature. The opinion can be found here.
There were a number of pieces of legislation on medical malpractice introduced in the current Louisiana legislative session, in anticipation of an adverse ruling in this case. It is highly doubtful that any of that legislation will be heard as a result of the Supreme Court decision.
the Louisiana medical malpractice cap unconstitutional? A decision by the
Louisiana Supreme Court on the Oliver case is expected in the next few
months. Find an update on the most
recent cases on the LAMMICO website.
For information on national
professional liability reform, read the AMA’s newly published compendium Medical Liability Reform-Now. It includes background on the problems with the
current system, proven solutions to improve the liability climate and outlines
possible reforms at the national level. Find the compendium on the AMA website.