The American Bar Association (ABA) has gone on record opposing a bill before Congress that would severely limit damages that injured patients can recover for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits.
In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr., the ABA took issue with several aspects of the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2016. In particular, the ABA opposes the bill’s cap of $250,000 on so-called noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, in medical malpractice suits.
The ABA is clear in its position, writing that it “opposes those provisions… which would place a dollar limit on recoverable damages and operate to deny full compensation to a patient in a medical liability action.” It points out in the letter that the individuals “affected by caps on damages are the patients who have been the most severely injured by the negligence of others.”
As a final point on the issue, the ABA argues that the HEALTH Act’s cap on damages is entirely unnecessary. “The courts already possess and exercise their powers… to set aside excessive jury verdicts, and that is the appropriate solution rather than an arbitrary cap.”
The ABA also expressed concerns that Congress is overreaching with the HEALTH Act into an area that is the proper jurisdiction of state law. The letter says that for 200 years each state has had “the autonomy to regulate the resolution of medical liability actions within its own borders,” calling that “the hallmark of our American justice system.” Accordingly, the ABA asks that Congress “not substitute its judgment…for the systems that have evolved in each state over time.”