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In Nevada, and 30 other states, medical malpractice caps limit the amount of money a hospital and doctors will be forced to pay out in non-economic damages. One of the most contentious topics at play in the healthcare debate, med mal caps have been touted by opposing sides as both necessary and egregious.
Since the caps mostly limit non-economic payouts, cases involving victims such as children and the elderly – those who are not making much money, if any – usually see relatively minuscule payouts.
While physicians have argued that such caps are necessary to keep doctors in-state and keep healthcare costs down, there has been surprisingly little evidence that such caps save much money at all. In California, where malpractice caps have existed for years, healthcare costs are higher than ever.
Earlier this month, the Nevada Supreme Court asked opposing sides in a malpractice lawsuit to file briefs in a case that challenges the state’s $350,000 cap on non-economic damages.
The case in question revolves around a woman who was the victim of medical misdiagnosis. Her family members have argued that the $350,000 malpractice cap applies only to each claim filed, not the situation as a whole. Since the woman has seven surviving family members, given their argument, each would be entitled to $350,000 in non-economic damages.
Doctors have argued that non-economic caps apply on a case-basis, and they have reason to fear a trial on the subject. If the court rules on behalf of the plaintiff, other plaintiffs in other states could take a cue. Even if the court rules against the plaintiffs, they have vowed to challenge med mal caps as a violation of equal protection rights laid out in the U.S. and state constitutions.
Perhaps even more than a decision for the plaintiff, a decision against could spell trouble for malpractice caps across the country.