Medical Malpractice

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Issue: Medical Malpractice

Impact:

In an effort to establish national policies on health care access and medical cost containment, members of Congress have introduced bills repeatedly in successive Congressional sessions to federalize and alter personal injury law in health care law suits.

Position:

State court leaders urge Congress to be mindful of federalism principles when considering any legislation seeking to make uniform practices and procedures

Summary:

Over the past two decades, members of Congress have debated whether the customs and practices surrounding personal injury lawsuits, especially medical malpractice cases, have become broken to the point of needing federal intervention.  The recent intense focus on national healthcare reform spawned a wave of bills in the 111th and 112th Congresses to federalize policy with respect to so-called “health care lawsuits.”   The House of Representatives in the 113th Congress continues to make this subject a high priority. 

Status:

Following patterns in previous Congresses, the House in the 113th Congress is considering legislation to create uniform national mandates with respect to “health care lawsuits”. These proposals would federalize in significant ways many state policies and practices, as provided in statutory and common law, including provisions to: (1) establish a nationwide limit and calculation formula for non-compensatory and punitive damages, (2) repeal the collateral source rule, (3) limit contingency fees for claimant attorneys,  (4) institute a uniform 3-year statute of limitations for health care lawsuits, and (5) require periodic payment of damages in any case where future damages are awarded.