Tort reform continued to advance around the country last week as legislators in the House of Representatives in Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma passed measures that would put caps on noneconomic damages in medical liability cases.
The Iowa House passed HB 2440 that sets a cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases unless there is a finding of malice on the part of the defendant. The Missouri House passed HB 1304 that among many things changes the cap on noneconomic damages from $350,000 adjusted annually for inflation (currently equal to $565,000), to $400,00 without an inflation adjustment. In Oklahoma, the House passed HB 2661 that caps noneconomic damages at $300,000.
The American Medical Association classifies Iowa and Oklahoma as problem states while Missouri is listed as a state in crisis.
“The unrestrained escalation in jury awards is one of the primary causes of the medical liability crisis around the country,” said Ann Weber, regional manager and counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). “For Iowa, passing tort reform legislation provides the state with the opportunity to stop the problem before it reaches crisis proportions and doctors are forced to curtail their practices.”
In Oklahoma, lawmakers advanced a broad range of reforms that are designed to eliminate frivolous lawsuits. “Insurers have joined with other business leaders and medical professionals to support a plan that will stop the national trial bar from forum shopping in Oklahoma, limit class action lawsuits, and place a cap on noneconomic damages in not only medical liability cases but all civil cases,” said Donald Hanson, regional manager and counsel for PCI. “The provisions in this legislation strike a balance that will help improve the state’s business climate while providing consumers the ability to recover legitimate claims.”
Missouri’s tort reform effort caps noneconomic damages, limits venue shopping by establishing the county where the cause of action occurred as being the venue for the case, and removes the “per occurrence” language in order to overrule the Missouri Supreme Court decision in Scott v. SSM Healthcare Systems.
“Tort reform is necessary to address the state’s medical liability crisis,” added Joe Woods, assistant vice president and regional manager for PCI. “This measure ensures greater fairness in the court system by having cases heard in the appropriate venue. It will also overturn the effects of a devastating court case that created great uncertainty regarding the potential pay out in medical liability cases.”
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