Law would enforce nursing home malpractice caps

In a case that could have broad implications for providers nationwide, West Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday inched closer to passing a law that could place caps on jury awards in nursing home malpractice suits.

The Judiciary Committee sent to the House floor the Medical Professional Liability Act, which expands caps on medical malpractice damages to include more health care providers, including nursing homes and pharmacies.

Observers say the proposed law is a direct outgrowth of a major 2009 wrongful death case against Heartland Nursing Home in Charleston, in which state Supreme Court justices slashed a $91 million jury award to $38 million after finding part of the verdict form was “fatally vague.” Had the current bill before the House been approved back in 2011, non-economic damages in the Heartland case would have been limited to $500,000.