October 11th, 2009
03:07 PM ET
13 years ago

Casey: $250K cap on malpractice damages 'insulting'

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/11/art.caseysotu1011.cnn.jpg caption="Sen. Casey said Sunday that an aspect of medical malpractice reform favored by many congressional Republicans was 'insulting' and wouldn't be 'justice as we have come to understand it.'"]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A moderate Pennsylvania Democrat came out strongly Sunday against the possibility of imposing a cap on medical malpractice damages as part of comprehensive health care reform legislation currently under consideration in Congress.

“I don’t think the way to go is to limit the rights of Americans who are injured by negligent or intentional conduct,” Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey who is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

“A $250,000 cap on damages, in my humble opinion, is insulting to our system of justice,” Casey also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “That is not justice as we have come to understand it.”

In an interview that aired earlier on State of the Union, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain suggested that medical malpractice reform was one area where the GOP should begin to crystallize its own positive health care reform agenda now that Congress is about to begin to process of melding together several health care bills in both chambers.

But, pointing to the experience of her state, Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow suggested that the Republican approach to malpractice reform was too simplistic.

“There’s a different way to come at it,” Stabenow told King, “The Republicans have a very traditional approach over and over again – whether or not [malpractice reform] has worked.” Stabenow said damages caps imposed in Michigan had not stemmed increases in the malpractice insurance rates paid by doctors.

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budge Office issued a cost estimate of the health care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee which concluded that inclusion of tort reform in the legislation would save $54 billion.

soundoff (225 Responses)
  1. Art H

    It is high time there was some kind of a reasonable cap imposed on such astronomical and nonsensical amounts being awarded as "damages", which finally falls on the shoulders of the rest of us.

    Even a quarter million dollars ($250,000) is too much, in my book, and really should be reduced to a reasonable number like say $50,000 to $100,000.

    There should also be a clause attached that states that the lawyers cannot suck up more than 10% in fees and expenses, from any such awards granted as damages and that at least 90% of it should go to the aggreived party.

    October 11, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. Steve B (California)

    Did Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey bow down to the trial lawyers on this one!

    October 11, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  3. Cathy Jenkins

    I think it's a good idea, I don't see what is wrong. Some people are greedy, that's one of the biggest problems today. Big awards vs fair awards on malpratice suits.

    October 11, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. Tayo, NY

    What a wonderful topic to debate!

    Whao te response is great.!!

    October 11, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. George B.

    Doctors collude to cover the misdeeds of their M.D. collegues, I have insider infromation and believe me IT DOES HAPPEN. I could not believe some of the incompetence presented as evidence and yet residents are not reported or even kicked out of the program, often they are referred to another program (passing off the problem) with letters of recommendation! If anyone tells you this is not true, they are lying.

    October 11, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. Mike TX

    By and large this would be a good thing. I could see in cases of gross negligence where this would not work, but don't kid yourself that it's not a problem. The CBO says it will save $54 billion – maybe that doesn't mean much to you who don't pay taxes, but to me it means alot.

    October 11, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. Mike Cooper

    I have to say I'm with the Republicans on this one. It is impossible to put a dollar figure on "pain and suffering"; so we shouldn't try. A doctor should be responsible only for the costs of treatment, and rehabilitation for any mistakes they made.

    October 11, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  8. Douglas

    If a cap is going to be put on medical malpractice lawsuits, then first put a cap on outrageous salaries of company CEOs at $200,000, and stop the insulting (to the constituency) annual increases to our representatives salaries.

    October 11, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  9. Dr.Mike

    I do not know any doctor who would intentional harm any human being. That said, mistakes and complications do happen, and patients should be compensated.
    But what happens in most times, do you know of that settlement how much goes to patient? you would be surprised the cut that goes to ambulance chasers.
    My malpractice insurance is in 6 figures, you figure 350K from med school on top of that I have to pay before I even have to think about mortgage or anything else. Heck something is going to have to be done otherwise you will see a lot of doctors looking for different profession, simply by not being able to afford being a doctor any more.

    For the end, look who is in congress, lawyer after lawyer, our president and vp are lawyers. Do you think they will ever include any reform on medical malpractice? Probably NOT.

    October 11, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  10. Harold in PA

    I must say I am disturbed by the percentage of people who seem to have a misconception about what a cap on torts would mean. A tort, as a few have mentioned, is the "pain and suffering" portion of the suits, not the actual losses portion. One person did have it right with mentioning the McDonald's hot coffee suit. That extreme sum ($2.86Mil) was a tort while the $11k was the actual losses to cover medical costs. Since continued care for an egregious act by a doctor would be considered "losses" not "pain and suffering" the tort reform cap would have NO impact recouping costs for continued care after a case of malpractice.

    With this being the case, Senator Casey being against limiting the extra on top of the losses is bad judgment.

    October 11, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  11. WIll 18E

    If in your car you hit a patch of ice, clear accident no malice or negligence, yet your car collides with a surgeon. The Doctor, will take you and your insurance company to the cleaners. The double standard and hubris that doctors want to live under in the real world is insulting.

    October 11, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  12. WIll 18E

    Over half of the companies offering malpractice for Doctors in the U.S. are physician owned. The only requirement to obtain medical malpractice insurance, is a state license to practice. No matter how many times you been sued and lost. Or that you lost you license to practice in another state. If Doc's, where treated the same as others as it relates to insurance, the bad Doc. would be out of business; like bad drivers, and homeowners.

    October 11, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  13. dan smith

    Dumbocrats,what can one say? They all seem to live in a fantasy world,since they don't seem to know how the real world works. So many of you idiots keep saying make insurance companies and medical practitioners non profit, well here's and idea let's just make all jobs not for profit including yours, that way everything will just be free.Yeah didn't think you idiots would like that idea.

    October 11, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  14. Elizabeth

    I would like to start tort reform by putting a cap on the amount the winning LAWYER(S) can receive. If I were a juror who wanted to award a malpractice victim adequate compensentation, I would have to consider how much of the award his/her lawyer(s) would receive. I would like more knowledgeable persons than I to determine a reasonable limit for the lawyer(s)' share, but I think that netting (after actual expenses) millions of dollars for a single case, would be exhorbitant.
    I also think that a panel (of, for example, two judges and three citizens selected from a list of available jurors) from outside the region where the case would be heard should determine whether a potential malpractice case is frivolous or worthy of being tried. If the panel rules the case "frivolous," the plaintiff would retain the right to a trial, but would automatically be responsible for all court cost if he/she were to lose. I believe that this would reduce subatantially the number of frivolous cases going to trial.

    October 11, 2009 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  15. John in Iowa

    I think $250k is way too low these days for the cost of possible care required in the event of major mistakes.
    I think it needs to be a sliding scale cap depending on severity of damages.

    October 11, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  16. Terry from West Texas

    We in Texas have capped medical malpractice suits at $250,000. Studies have shown that medical costs for Texas consumers have not gone down one cent.

    October 11, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  17. th3rdpwr

    Why aren't the repubs suggesting capping the amount of the lawyers' fees?

    October 11, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  18. John from California

    The $259K cap on medical malpractice is like putting a cap of 6 months on thieves and thugs.

    Get real republicans.

    October 11, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  19. haren

    How about this, if you loose your case than pay the both parties expanses.

    October 11, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  20. dan smith

    Here's a thought maybe if everyone got off welfare the government would have enough money to provide healthcare for all americans and we would need to be having this discussion to begin with-just a thought.

    October 11, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  21. Nea

    WHATEVER! I for one are just tired of the cpmplaing about this complaining about that when are we just going to move on from complaints and move toward PRAYER thats what changes thing.

    October 11, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  22. Danny J

    What's insulting is that doctors will now face less resources to treat patients, will be the only physicians in an industrialized nation without tort reform or medical malpractice insurance caps, and the only country where physicians pay twenty times the average for medical school education.
    What that amounts to is health care reform without tort reform. Factor in malpractice insurance and the most expensive medical school tuition, and the average doctor will now make less than the average truck driver in the United States. Who will want to be a doctor now? There's a reason why Americans have gotten the Nobel prize in Medicine for 12 of the past 15 years. With the changes coming, I don't know if that streak will continue...

    October 11, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  23. On the other hand...

    The Democrats do not care one bit about reducing the cost of health care. This is why they will never get anything passed and why ultimately it will be the Republicans in 2013 that will get 100% of Americans covered by health insurance. They will enact a plan that does not bankrupt the The US Treasury.

    October 11, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  24. Jeff in Houston

    My oh my! Did the right-to-life Bible thumping Republicans just put a dollar value on human life? How shocking! But wait. Sorry. I forgot. Big business trumps their God, either that, or big business IS their God. Never mind me. I'll be over in the corner giggling. Sometiems you just have to step past the outrage and laugh at these people.

    October 11, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  25. RRRUSA

    This was the same limit Bush and McCain tried to impose on malpractice 5 years ago!
    If they put this limit on malpractice, to be perfectly fair......how about an associated ruling that revokes the license of any doctor reaching that limit FOR LIFE.

    As long as BOTH doctors AND lawyers are still driving top of the line Mercedes Benzs and owning three houses...there is something TERRIBLY wrong with health care and tort reform in this country. And limiting the patient while not the bad doctor is obscene.

    October 11, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
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