Report: Damages cap leads to unwilling plaintiffs lawyers

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The $250,000 cap on non-economic damage awards in medical malpractice lawsuits has led to fewer attorneys willing to file such lawsuits, according to a Los Angeles Times investigative article. Medical malpractice insurance rates overall have increased less than half the national average over the past 20 years, leading some to hold it up as a model to be copied for national or other states' tort reforms.

A 1975 law created the cap, which is coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism, however, the newspaper reported. Not adjusted for inflation since the law passed, the cap would have risen to $882,000 if it had been adjusted.

Health insurers claim there has been no reduction in malpractice suits since the cap was implemented.

A RAND study recently found that judges in California cut non-economic damage awards by juries in nearly half (45%) of the malpractice cases that went to trial in the state. Juries are not told of the cap during deliberations and awarded an average of $800,000 per case from 1995 to 1999, according to the study.