In recent blogs, we have discussed how corporations, lobbyists, and politicians
push for legislative changes that restructure our civil justice system
in a manner that benefits themselves – even when it comes at the
expense of everyday Americans and victims of negligence. Prime examples
of these changes relate to tort reform, which have succeeded in state
legislatures across the country passing unfair laws that limit the amount
of compensation victims are able to recover after being harmed by negligent
health care providers.
Today, more states than not impose some type of damages cap on medical
malpractice cases. Most of these states limit non-economic damages –
which are the types of intangible losses victims and families suffer after
preventable injuries, such as mental anguish, loss of quality or enjoyment
of life, and their pain and suffering. Some even limit total damages that
can be recovered, including economic damages. Should one particular bill
making its way through Congress be passed (the “Protecting Access
to Care Act”), these caps could be placed on
medical malpractice and
nursing home injury cases nationwide.
The unfortunate truth is that money is continually flooding into American
politics – and that money can be traced back to lobbyists and corporations
that have financial interests in limiting how much they pay to the victims
they harm, or the victims harmed by their insurance policy holders. The
powerful combination of money and rhetoric have succeeded in getting tort
reform initiatives and
damages caps to pass in many states, but advocacy efforts are beginning to strengthen,
raise awareness, and prompt much needed change.
Fighting Back Against Profits Over People
While the prioritization of profits over people driving tort reform sometimes
succeeds, there is reassurance knowing Americans are fighting back. More
good news comes from recent developments and court decisions directly
targeting laws that unfairly limit the rights of victims. For example:
New York passed a bipartisan measure at the end of last month to better
protect the rights of medical malpractice victims and their families,
particularly those who suffered harm or died as a result of
cancer misdiagnoses. Under that bill, victims and families know have two and a half years
to file a lawsuit after learning of the missed diagnosis, rather than
the current 15 month statute of limitations that begins when the misdiagnosis occurred.
- In January, a North Dakota District Judge denied a motion from a hospital
to reduce the jury’s verdict in a case involving surgical errors
that led to a victim suffering a serious stroke, and declared the state’s
statutory cap limiting non-economic damages in medical negligence cases
to $500,000 unconstitutional.
- In June of 2017, the Florida Supreme Court ruled to strike down a policy
adopted under Governor Jeb Bush that placed a cap on non-economic damages
in medical malpractice cases. Presiding Justices in the case noted that
those caps not only failed to reduce insurance rates as proponents had
initially claimed they would, but also that the limitations were arbitrary,
unfair, and impacted only victims who suffer the most severe and life-altering
consequences – including death, permanent injuries, physical impairment,
and tremendous pain and suffering.
- In the wake of the Florida decision, the First District Court of Appeals
in Wisconsin ruled the state’s law capping non-economic damages
in medical malpractice cases unconstitutional. The court also cited that
while victims who suffer less severe injuries nearly always recover their
full amount of damages, the limit caps damages only for the most severely
and profoundly injured.
These types of laws and decisions are major victories for advocates, and
for all Americans. No victim or family – especially those who suffer
the most – should be denied the compensation they deserve (awarded
by judges or juries of their peers) simply because corporate powers have
meddled enough with our politics to create a system that works in their
favor. Such decisions are an indication that times may soon be changing
in terms of tort reform and victims’ rights – and those are
victories to celebrate and build upon.
As a law firm that has built its reputation on fighting of injured victims
and families, including those harmed by medical malpractice, Shrager,
Spivey & Sachs supports these types of decisions and advocacy efforts,
and always offers our support to those who need to fight for what they
deserve after being harmed in Pennsylvania. We encourage you to learn
more about these civil justice issues (you can visit
www.takejusticeback.com to learn more), and to
contact our legal team if you have a potential case you wish to discuss.