Last Sunday the Los Angeles Times printed an article indicating that a family was seeking $45 million from King Harbor hospital for medical malpractice causing the death of a patient. The story was misleading, leaving readers with the impression that medical malpractice victims can get rich from lawsuits.
When doctor’s negligence, when their mistakes hurt people, the 1975 MICRA law, prevents patients from obtaining justice. The law limits recovery for pain and suffering to $250,000. When first passed, it prevented patients from recovering full compensation for their injuries.
Now, 30 years later, as costs of litigation have gone up but the $250,000 has not changed. As a result, people injured by doctors errors are finding that they often cannot get a lawyer to take their case.
The article published last Sunday indicates that the family is suing for $45 million dollars, but does not mention that their recovery will be limited to $250,000. In response, Linda Rice sent a letter to the Los Angeles Times correcting the error. That letter was published on November 11, 2007.
As printed in the Times, Linda wrote: “A jury might think $45 million is fair and just compensation to the family of the woman who died while hospital personnel ignored her cries of pain for nearly an hour. But the judge will automatically reduce any possible verdict to $250,000 — the most in noneconomic damages anyone can recover for any injury or death caused by a healthcare provider. The cap was passed at the behest of the insurance industry and medical establishment more than three decades ago. Because it has never been changed or adjusted — even for inflation — we may be reaching a point at which letting patients die is more cost-effective than treating them. The public needs to understand this. This article promotes the misconception that people who sue doctors end up rich. That isn’t possible in California.”