Legislators Propose Caps on Damages Recoverable in Medical Malpractice Cases

A bill has been introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly to cap "non-economic" damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to $1,000,000, regardless of the degree of harm suffered by the patient.

Non-economic damages are defined as " damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, discomfort, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, injury to reputation, punitive damages, and all other nonpecuniary losses of any kind or nature."

The effort to limit patient rights comes notwithstanding the fact that medical malpractice filings are dropping significantly and there are less than seven jury verdicts for patients in the entire state per year.  

Regular readers will recall that Tennessee has very few million dollar verdicts in any type of tort case.  For the fiscal year ending July 31, 2009, there were just 15 verdicts of $1,000,000 or more in tort cases in the entire state.  Those verdicts include economic and non-economic losses.  

This legislation is yet another attempt by health care providers and their insurers to seek special treatment in our court system.  We worked with the providers in the last two years to make it more difficult to file medical malpractice lawsuits so that we could reduce cost and stress on doctors, and the re-payment is that they now want to limit damages recovered by those who have meritorious cases.  

It never stops.  

Read the bill here.  The bill is sponsored by two leading Republicans.