Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed Senate Bill 281 into law Jan. 10, the tort reform legislation that limits noneconomic damage awards in medical injury lawsuits. The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA), which spearheaded support for the bill, says the new law is an important first step in assuring Ohio citizens access to quality health care in the state.
“Senate Bill 281 contains practical, common sense reforms that will help defray unnecessary litigation costs while ensuring that patients who are harmed can seek and receive fair compensation through our courts,” said Gov. Taft said. “We need these critical reforms to protect and maintain the health care-options of the people of Ohio.”
The new law will limit court awards for noneconomic damages to, generally, $350,000. Depending on the severity of the injuries and the number of plaintiffs involved in a case, the limit could rise as high as $1 million. The limits are expected to enable insurance companies to better predict their losses, which, in turn, should stabilize insurance rates for doctors. In addition, the law imposes a four-year deadline to file malpractice lawsuits, and places limits on attorney fees, assuring that medical injury patients will receive larger shares of jury awards.
“We are working together to solve this crisis, and to assure that Ohioans will continue to have access to physicians of their choice in the future,” OSMA president John Thomas, MD, Wooster, remarked.
To rally support for the bill, the OSMA involved thousands of physicians, patients, and medical staffs statewide in a variety of grassroots efforts.
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