Saturday, May 7, 2016

Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the US; Yet, Oregon upholds cap to prevent victims of medical errors to recover full amount of damages

Here are two stories published within days of each other this week.

A new study concludes that medical malpractice has now become the third leading cause of death in the United States, which supports the arguments of those who for years have been advocating for reforms to minimize medical errors and to strengthen protections for those who suffer damages because of those errors.  Go here for an article and a podcast on the new study.

Yet, at the same time, the response of tort reformers in many states is to continue to pursue measures intended to make it more difficult for victims of malpractice to pursue claims or to lower the amount of compensation they can recover is they do pursue the claims.  For example, I recently commented on measures taken, or about to be taken, in Missouri, and Arkansas.

Now comes news of a recent decision by the Oregon Supreme Court which upheld a $3 million  cap on damages against the state and its employees.  Now, I understand that $3 million sounds like a lot of money (and it is!), but the fact is that measures like these have the effect of affecting much more those who suffer the worst types of injuries.

This case is a perfect example.  The Court's ruling reduces a $12 million jury verdict in a case that involved a botched surgery that nearly killed a then 8-year-old boy.  Here is what is important:  the plaintiffs proved they would need $6 million to cover future medical need for the child.  Yet, the Court cut down the award to half of that.  The $3 million that is left out must now be absorbed by the family.  The defendant caused the injury but the family has to pay at least half of the costs.  OregonLive has the story.

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