A flat cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases is unfair to plaintiffs, particularly those who suffered grave injuries, researchers said in a study published last week. In a sampling of jury verdicts in California, which has a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases since 1975, the reduction in damages for plaintiffs with grave injuries was seven times larger than for plaintiffs with minor injuries. Individuals suffering from pain and disfigurement endured particularly large reductions in their awards, according to the study.
"Decisions to implement caps should be made with an awareness that they are likely to exacerbate existing problems of fairness in compensation," the authors wrote in a report appearing in the July/August Health Affairs.
Twenty-one states have some level of cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice cases.
Meanwhile, a separate malpractice-related study in the journal's July/August issue found that nearly 40% of 824 Pennsylvania specialists surveyed in 2003 said they were dissatisfied with the practice of medicine.