Federal Medical Liability Tort Reform Legislation Passes U.S. House of Representatives
June 30, 2017by
On June 28, the U.S. House of Represen-tatives voted 218 to 210 in favor of House Resolution 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act, which would cap noneconomic damages in medical liability lawsuits at $250,000, among other provisions. The Protecting Access to Care Act models the reforms found in California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) of 1975 — long considered the gold standard of state-level medical liability tort reforms. In addition to imposing a nationwide $250,000 noneconomic damage cap in medical liability lawsuits, the Protecting Access to Care Act would preempt state laws governing healthcare lawsuits in the areas of statutes of limitation, joint and several liability, product liability and contingency fees. The legislation would establish: • A three-year statute of limitations that begins, with certain exceptions, at the date of injury, not date of discovery. • Replacement of joint and several liability with a fair-share rule, under which a defendant in a lawsuit would be liable only for the percentage of the final award that was equal to his or her share of responsibility for the injury. • Sliding-scale limits on the contingency fees that lawyers can charge. • A safe harbor from product liability litigation for health care providers who prescribe or dispense products approved by the Food & Drug Administration. “This vote represents a major victory for tort reform advocates,” said Mike Stinson, vice president of government relations and public policy for PIAA, the medical professional and hospital liability insurance industry trade association, which played a leadership role in advocating for the Protecting Access to Care Act. “We are now one step closer to enacting federal medical liability reforms that will reduce the non-meritorious litigation that undermines the physician-patient relationship. This legislation will truly benefit both patients and healthcare professionals alike.” A companion bill will next be introduced in the U.S. Senate.