Sharon J. Arkin, President

TO:  Members of the California State Legislature

FR:  Consumer Attorneys of California

DATE: June 1, 2005

RE:  “Why medical malpractice caps are wrong” - Trial magazine – May 2005

The May 2005 edition of Trial magazine features an article entitled, “Why medical malpractice caps are wrong.” Authored by noted attorney Patrick A. Salvi, the article explains, “Tort ‘reformers’ are masters at public deception.  It’s up to us to set the record straight.”  The article explains:

“It’s time for all Americans to learn the truth.  Capping damages does not lower premiums, improve access to health care, or control health care costs.  Instead, caps prevent meritorious cases from ever reaching a fair and just conclusion.”

“When the largest malpractice insurer in the nation tells a regulator that caps on damages don’t work, every legislator, regulator, and voter in the nation should listen.”

“In 1975, California enacted the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which capped awards of noneconomic damages at $250,000 .  But another ‘reform’ law—Proposition 103, passed in that state in 1988—is often overlooked when cap supporters tell their version of the California story.”
“From 1975 until 1988 (after MICRA but before Prop 103), medical malpractice insurance premiums in California rose by 450 percent; after Prop 103 until 2001, insurance premiums in California declined by 2 percent.  To assume that the state’s relatively stabilized premiums rates are the result of caps on noneconomic damages is to ignore the significant facts.  If lawmakers want to reduce premiums, they should change insurance company practices.”

California’s MICRA should not be used as a model for the nation.  In fact, the MICRA cap should be eliminated, particularly in cases resulting in death or serious injury. For additional information about eliminating or raising the MICRA cap, feel free to contact the Consumer Attorneys of California office at (916) 442-6902.

1 Inflation has eroded the value of California’s MICRA cap to less than $68,225.  To adjust for inflation alone since 1975, the MICRA cap should be increased to $916,025.