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High court throws out malpractice limits

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POSTED: March 29, 2010 2:42 p.m.
Can you put a price on sight? A limb? A healthy newborn? The Georgia Supreme Court says no.
On Monday, the state’s top court unanimously struck down a 2005 law that put a $350,000 limit on jury awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases. The previous cap did not apply to awards for medical expenses.
Health-care professionals and insurance companies have long maintained limiting malpractice awards saves consumers money by allowing doctors and insurers to keep their rates low. When they’re held accountable for astronomical payouts, care and coverage providers say, they’re forced to pass the losses onto patients and customers.
That logic appears sound, however, in most cases, it’s not. Several other states had medical malpractice caps in place long before Georgia enacted its legislation, including the most-populous and second-most-populous U.S. states, California and Texas.
According to a March 2 article by the Muskegon Chronicle, California established a cap in 1975, but during the next 13 years, premiums still rose 450 percent. Texas put limits in place in 2003; however, according to statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the country.
These data reflect the nature of all too many service industries: even if providers catch a break they are loathe to pass it on the consumers. Thankfully, the Georgia Supreme Court has made fair compensation attainable for state residents injured as a result of medical malpractice.
Consider patients who lose limbs because of erroneous amputations, infants who are disabled because of botched deliveries or people who are disfigured during surgeries gone awry. Of course, past and present medical expenses likely would be taken care  of in separate jury awards, but victims’ families often must contend with additional financial and crippling emotional losses. Caretakers lose wages when they spend time away from work, and the added stress tears families apart.
In short, anyone who has become the victim of a life-altering mistake has a constitutional right to seek justice and, according to the law, only a jury can put a price on that justice.

 

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