Conn. Vote on Med-Mal Caps Expected Today

April 26, 2004

Legislative leaders are predicting a battle over whether the state should place caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice jury awards.

The House of Representatives is scheduled today to debate the long-awaited legislation aimed at controlling skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates in Connecticut.

“I think it will be a close vote,” said House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, who supports caps.

He estimates about 80 percent of the House Republicans and a fair number of Democrats — who control the chamber — back legislation that limits awards. Gov. John G. Rowland, a Republican, announced last week he would veto any bill that did not include caps on jury awards for pain and suffering.

Rowland said caps on damages are the only real solution to high malpractice insurance costs, which are blamed for forcing many doctors to cut services or leave Connecticut.

An amendment will likely be offered Monday that will limit awards to $350,000 for individual physicians and $650,000 for hospitals.

Patients rights advocates made an 11th-hour pitch Friday, calling on lawmakers to oppose the measure. They argue that caps are a false solution and will hurt victims of medical malpractice.

“How can any legislator say that a victim or a victim’s family member is not entitled to anything over $350,000 for a lifetime of deprivations and disabilities,” asked Stephen Govoni, president of Connecticut Patients’ Rights.

“Even if their medical bills and living expenses are covered, would any legislator accept that as justice for himself, herself or a family member?” he asked.

Govoni’s wife Kate died at age 41 from a botched allergy shot given in her doctor’s office.

House Speaker Moira Lyons, D-Stamford, said she opposes caps and has not been persuaded they will help lower the rising cost of insurance for physicians. But she said many Democrats support the limits.

“I think this is a very good possibility that some type of cap will pass this chamber,” she said.

If the House passes such legislation, the bill would move to the Democratic-controlled Senate for further action.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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