- The California Supreme Court announced last week that it will hear Hughes v. Pham, the case challenging the constitutionality of the state damages cap of $250,000 in medical malpractice suits. The standard has stood for 39 years.
- In an amicus letter, Consumer Watchdog urged the court to overturn the statute, which has never been adjusted for inflation: "Leondra Kruger, [California] Governor Brown's latest Supreme Court appointment, at 38 years old was not even born when the damage cap was enacted in California," wrote litigation director Pam Pressley. "We hope that she will bring a fresh perspective on malpractice victims' rights considering that none of the conditions purporting to support enactment of the cap in 1975 exist today."
- Consumer Watchdog also points out that malpractice premiums were not stymied by the enactment of the cap, which was the "ostensible justification" for the regulation. Instead, Pressley wrote, only direct regulation of insurance premiums through the adoption of Proposition 103 in 1988 steadied the rise in rates.
While opponents of overturning the decades-old cap have suggested that it will result in a "crisis" of skyrocketing insurance premiums, other state supreme courts have already ruled that such caps are unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court handed down such a ruling in March, writing: "At the present time, the cap on noneconomic damages serves no other purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members. ...The statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages does not bear a rational relationship to the stated purpose that the cap is purported to address, the alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in Florida."