South Carolina became the third state in recent weeks to cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $350,000, following Georgia and Missouri. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who signed the cap into law Monday, called it a "business-friendly step" that would help control malpractice premiums for doctors and increase access to healthcare. Sanford said the medical malpractice law and other recent reforms would pay off in increased jobs, capital investment and access to healthcare in the state. The governor's office said caps on noneconomic damages had helped significantly slow increases in malpractice premiums in other states.
Not everyone agrees, however, that lawsuits and huge awards by juries have caused the dramatic premium increases seen by some doctors. Indeed, a Duke University study of malpractice claims in Florida concluded that the number of lawsuits and the value of awards stayed relatively the same from 1990 to 2003, based on population, and that most of the big payments to victims of medical errors had been part of out-of-court settlements. -- by Michael Romano