October 2, 2020

California voters will have the chance in November 2022 to modify the 45-year-old $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in California medical malpractice cases that in 2020 is worth only $50,768 in 1975 dollars, and which disproportionately impacts Black and brown Californians. The California Secretary of State recently certified the initiative to be included on California’s November 2022 ballot after supporters collected 900,000 signatures in support and raised over $4 million.

The Fairness for Injured Patients Act would adjust for inflation the maximum $250,000 compensation cap set by the California Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 1975, on quality of life and wrongful death survivor damages. If passed by the voters and signed into law, the Fairness for Injured Patients Act would allow judges and jurors to decide that compensation above $250,000 is appropriate in certain cases of catastrophic injury or death, and would require juries to be informed about the existence of the cap. Under present law, juries are prohibited from being advised of the existence of the $250,000 cap that has not increased since 1975.


Fairness for Injured Patients Act

The Attorney General of California prepared the following title and summary of the chief purpose and points of the proposed measure: “In medical negligence cases, adjusts for inflation: (1) $250,000 limit established in 1975 on quality-of-life and survivor damages (which include pain and suffering); and (2) contingent attorney’s fees limits established in 1987. In cases involving death or permanent injury, allows judge or jury to exceed these limits and requires judge to award attorney’s fees. Requires attorneys filing medical negligence cases to certify reasonable basis for claims or good-faith attempt to obtain medical opinion; attorneys who file meritless lawsuits must pay defendant’s expenses. Extends deadlines for filing medical negligence lawsuits. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Increased state and local government health care costs predominantly from raising or removing the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, likely ranging from the low tens of millions of dollars to the high hundreds of millions of dollars annually. (19-0018.) (emphasis in original)


The California Democratic Party’s 2020 Platform states, in part: “To reverse these attacks on the rights of our citizens to seek full and fair justice through the courts, California Democrats will: … Trust juries to determine the appropriate level of compensation for a prevailing plaintiff in a lawsuit, oppose any arbitrary limits on damages that a jury may award, and support review of the impact on raising current limits on pain and suffering damages on victims and providers in medical malpractice;”


If you or a loved one were harmed by medical malpractice in California or in another U.S. state, you should find a California medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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