Fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has delayed by two years what likely would have been one of the most expensive California ballot battles leading up to this November's election, initiative supporters said Thursday.
Their proposal would raise the limit for damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits from the $250,000 cap set in 1975 to more than $1.2 million, with continued increases to keep up with inflation.
Proponents will delay the campaign until 2022 because of the uncertainty prompted by the pandemic, Jamie Court, president of the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, said in an emailed statement.
The group said supporters collected 988,000 signatures, above the 623,000 signatures required, but will deliberately delay submitting them until after the deadline for this November has passed.
Two-thirds of voters in 2014 rejected a similar proposal after a coalition of medical groups raised nearly $60 million to defeat it. They argued that increasing lawsuit awards would have raised health care prices for everyone.
Californians Allied for Patient Protection, which opposed the 2014 proposal, previously said the new version would harm many patients' access to health care.
Court earlier said his group wanted voters to reconsider this fall, when President Donald Trump stands for re-election and is likely to draw an electorate that is more sympathetic to raising the malpractice cap. Polls have shown that most California voters disapprove of Trump.
"Voters are overwhelmed with trying to keep their families safe and deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19," one of the lead proponents, Consumer Watchdog board member Scott Olsen, said in a statement. "It will be more productive to have this conversation when everything stabilizes."
His then-2-year-old son was permanently disabled from a head injury in 1992. A jury awarded the family $7 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit, but the money was reduced to $250,000 because of the cap.
The cap is also being challenged as unconstitutional in an Alameda County Superior Court lawsuit.