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Bill Caps Punitive Damages

Bill Limiting Medical Malpractice
Suits Damages Consumers

WASHINGTON, DC -- May 3, 2002 -- The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost Health Care Act (H.R. 4600) does not live up to its title. Introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives last week, this legislation would instead undermine the rights of the sick and injured by placing severe restrictions on medical malpractice, product liability and insurance claims.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • limit non-economic damages to $250,000, unless there is a different state cap;
  • cap punitive damages at the greater of $250,000 or two times economic damages;
  • require an increased standard of evidence to prove punitive damages;
  • disallow punitive damages against the manufacturer of drugs or devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and of those not approved by the FDA, but "generally recognized as safe and effective";
  • allow a defendant to decide that an award for future damages over $50,000 may be made in periodic payments rather than in a lump sum; and
  • eliminate joint and several liability, which is the sharing of liabilities among a group of people collectively or individually. The injured person would no longer be able to choose between suing the group or only one or more parties for the full amount of claims.

You can read the full text of H.R. 4600 on the Thomas Library of Congress web site (scroll to Search Bill Text, Bill Number; type in H.R. 4600). You may also be interested in factsheets about medical malpractice written by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) and the article, Insurance Industry Admits Tort Reform Won't Lower Premiums.

We urge you to contact your Congressperson in the US House of Representatives to express your views about H.R. 4600, which we consider anti-consumer and anti-patient legislation.

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