For almost two months now all my posts have been about medical malpractice reform bills. Today's update comes from Iowa where the state Senate has passed a tort reform bill (Senate File 465) which includes provisions capping awards for non-economic damages at $250,000, requiring a "certificate of merit" to screen out litigation and establishing standards for expert witnesses. There is more on the story here.
Apparently, the reforms were based on the discredited argument that they are needed to either keep doctors from leaving the jurisdiction or to attract doctors to the jurisdiction, an argument that is not supported by available empirical evidence. Also, the provision regarding "certificates of merit," as usual, was supported by the argument that it is a good way to screen out frivolous litigation. And, again, this argument is misleading because even though it may have that effect, the real goal of the provision is to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to be able to bring non-frivolous litigation. There are plenty of other mechanisms in place already that prevent frivolous litigation.
UPDATE (4-15-17): The TortsProf blog is reporting that the Iowa House has now passed the med mal reform bill, but fortunately, it was amended so it is not as bad as originally proposed. The amendment eliminated the "hard cap" and created an exception that would allow juries to make awards of more than $250,000 in cases of “substantial or permanent loss or impairment of bodily functions and substantial disfigurement.” Because of the this amendment, the House bill and the Senate bill will have to be reconciled.
UPDATE (4/28/17): The Senate passed a new bill adopting the House's version. The bill now goes to the governor who is expected to sign it. More on the story here.
UPDATE (5/8/17): Last Friday, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed into law a bill for med
mal cases requiring a certificate of merit and capping non-economic
damages at $250,000 except in cases involving permanent impairment,
disfigurement, or death. The Des Moines Register has the story. (Thanks to the TortsProf blog for this update.)