Insurance companies, physicians, Chambers of Commerce, and other likeminded organizations and individuals have touted the purported need for tort reform and medical malpractice caps on damages. Many of these claims are based upon spurious arguments that there are too many frivolous lawsuits and runaway jury verdicts. This could not be further from the truth.
Indeed, in Arizona there are statutory requirements in medical negligence lawsuits that you must retain an expert in the same field/specialty of the defendant physician. The typical cost of pursuing a medical negligence lawsuit can easily exceed six figures. There is no epidemic of frivolous lawsuits, quite the contrary.
When there is a substantial jury verdict in a personal injury lawsuit defendants right away claim that the verdict is unsubstantiated by the facts or is inflamed by human passion. These are some of the arguments that led to caps being placed on noneconomic (pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability) damages in such states as Texas. Such caps can significantly impact a person’s quality of life who is damaged as result of negligence.
Consider the recent plight of a British teenager who was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down after an epidural anesthetic was left in her spine for too long after a routine gall stone operation. Birmingham Children’s Hospital in Newport South Whales has admitted full responsibility for the teenager’s injuries.
According to her mother, Sophie’s life has completely changed. Immediately prior to the surgery she was a normal, healthy and active teenager. Now she can no longer walk. Had this malpractice occurred in a Texas hospital the teenager’s noneconomic damages, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering, disability would have been limited. This is precisely the type of case which causes an inequality where there are artificial caps on damages.