During the recent New York legislative session, the New York Senate’s Republican majority’s support of a measure to limit noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000 failed when the Speaker of the Assembly strongly opposed the measure and Governor Andrew Cuomo rejected the proposal.
The medical malpractice noneconomic damages cap proposal was buried within the recommendations of Governor Cuomo’s task force assigned the task of dealing with Medicaid cuts (the New York Medicaid Redesign Team). The cap was highly supported by New York’s hospital industry but opposed by patient advocates and trial lawyers, who were not represented on the task force. The New York State Bar Association strongly opposed the cap. The New York State Bar Association’s Committee on the Tort System issued a Memorandum in which it stated, in part:
The Committee on the Tort System unanimously opposes the Medicaid Redesign Team’s (MRT) Proposal Number 131, which aims to create a Neurologically Impaired Infant Medical Indemnity Fund (Fund) and would institute a cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice awards. It has long been the policy of this Association that such caps would be inadvisable…
More importantly, we are concerned that establishing such a program without input from interested parties will abridge several rights that New Yorkers currently enjoy. For example, the right to access the civil justice system, and more specifically the right to a trial by jury. The Committee questions the relationship between Medicaid reform and malpractice reform, whether malpractice reform is needed and/or advisable, and whether Proposal Number 131 would accomplish its stated purpose. Lastly, the Committee urges the consideration of measures to enhance patient safety and prevent adverse medical outcomes as a proper topic in any proposed reforms…
The New York State Bar Association has a long-standing position in opposition to caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice or any other tort action. The Association’s position is summarized as follows: The purpose of our tort system is to make whole or compensate the victims of harm caused by the negligence by others; In addition to out-of-pocket economic damages — such as lost wages — our system provides that a victim may be compensated for pain and suffering that results from serious injury. To cap this type of compensation would unjustly discriminate against accident victims who suffer the most devastating physical and psychological losses; Considering only economic loss would discriminate against persons with little or no earnings such as homemakers, children and retirees; Awards for non-economic injuries serve to deter corporate and governmental misconduct and to protect innocent citizens. A cap would eliminate the deterrence. Victims and society would then have to subsidize the cost of high-risk activities.
When special interest groups with substantial financial resources are able to improperly influence the legislative process by attempting to hide proposed major changes to the tort laws of New York without input or influence by the less powerful victims of medical malpractice, all of our privileges and rights protected by state constitutions are placed at risk of being subverted or unduly limited. The rights of all people established and stated in our states’ constitutions are sacrosanct — when one group’s financial interests and influence are protected to the detriment of all others, then those constitutional rights are violated.
If you are a victim of medical malpractice in New York or another state, visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to assist you in explaining medical malpractice laws and protecting your medical malpractice rights. You can also call us toll free at 800-295-3959. Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.