May 17, 2013
The California Medical Association (CMA) filed an amicus brief defending the constitutionality of our state’s landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which caps noneconomic damage awards at $250,000. This case is just the latest in many legal challenges to MICRA that have been funded by trial lawyer groups from across the country.
In this case, Gavello v. Millman, M.D., the jury awarded the plaintiffs $2.9 million for lost wages and $1 million for pain and suffering (noneconomic damages). In accordance with MICRA’S noneconomic damages provision (Civil Code Sec. 3333.2), the court adjusted the $1 million dollar award to $250,000 and then apportioned the award to reflect the jury’s finding that Dr. Millman was 20 percent responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
The plaintiffs have appealed, asserting that MICRA's cap on noneconomic damages violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution and their right to a jury trial.
CMA's amicus brief emphasizes the constitutionality and importance of MICRA's cap on noneconomic damages. It explains that "[t]he Supreme Court and Court of Appeal have held repeatedly that MICRA generally and Section 3333.2 specifically are rationally related to legitimate state interest," and that the plaintiffs arguments do not change that analysis or provide any legitimate basis to question the constitutionality of MICRA.
Today, MICRA is still working to restrain premium rates in California, while states without liability reform are seeing dramatically higher premiums. Because of MICRA, California has a system that is affordable, pays patients for their full medical and economic losses, and promotes patient safety and improved patient care.
MICRA allows patients with justifiable medical negligence claims to receive the following forms of compensation:Unlimited economic damages for past and future medical costs.Unlimited damages for lost wages, lifetime earning potential or any other economic losses.Unlimited punitive damages.Up to $250,000 for noneconomic damages (pain and suffering).
MICRA also includes a sliding pay scale to control attorney contingency fees, ensuring that more money goes to patients, not lawyers. MICRA’s $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages has proven to be an effective way of limiting meritless lawsuits and keeping health care costs lower, but has been targeted by the trial lawyers because it restricts the amount of money they can collect in attorney’s fees.
This case is currently before the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District.