SFMS/CMA, along with the California Dental Association, the California Hospital Association, and the American Medical Association, filed an amicus brief with the California Court of Appeal defending the constitutionality of our state’s landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which allows non-economic damage awards up to $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, Rashidi v. Moser, M.D., the jury awarded the plaintiff $125,000 in economic damages and $1,325,000 in non-economic (subjective pain and suffering) damages. The judge reduced the non-economic damages portion of the award to $250,000, in accordance with MICRA. The plaintiff appealed, asserting that MICRA’s cap on non-economic damages (Cal. Civ. Code Sec. 3333.2) violates California's constitutional guarantees of trial by jury, separation of powers and equal protection of the laws.
Contrary to the plaintiff’s arguments that MICRA’s non-economic damages cap “irrationally singles out the victims of medical malpractice for unfair treatment,” the cap is fairly and evenly applied. MICRA’s non-economic damages cap applies uniformly to any patient in California who is injured by medical malpractice. And every Californian benefits from the access to care that MICRA fosters.
The arguments the plaintiff asserts in this case have already been flatly rejected by the California Supreme Court. As the supreme court has explained, the Legislature clearly had a reasonable basis for drawing a distinction between economic and non-economic damages, providing that the desired cost savings should be obtained only by limiting the recovery of non-economic damages. MICRA reflects a strong public policy to contain the costs of malpractice insurance by controlling or redistributing liability for damages, maximizing the availability of medical services to meet the state’s health care needs.
Today, MICRA is working to keep premium rates in California low and stable, while states without liability reform are seeing dramatically higher premiums. Because of MICRA, California has a system that is affordable, compensates patients for their full medical and economic losses, and promotes patient safety and improved patient care.
MICRA allows patients with substantiated 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 non-economic 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 non-economic 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.