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H.R. 5 Bill Limiting Medical Damage Awards Further Hurts Injured Patients

Capping Punitive & Non-Economic Damages Helps Insurance Companies, Not Patients

WASHINGTON, DC -- February 21, 2003 -- Rep. James Greenwood has reintroduced the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost Health Care Act (H.R. 5), misnamed legislation that undermines the rights of the sick and injured. H.R. 5 would severely restrict medical malpractice and medical product liability claims by:

  • limiting non-economic damages to $250,000;
  • capping punitive damages at the greater of $250,000 or two times economic damages;
  • requiring that a health care lawsuit be brought within three years after the date of injury or within one year after the patient discovers the injury, whichever occurs first;
  • disallowing punitive damages against the manufacturer of drugs or devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
  • allowing 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
  • eliminating 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.

In a recent mailing to clients and friends, Brayton Purcell urged that concerned citizens fight against legislation such as HR 5. We pointed out that non-economic damages compensate patients for very real injuries - such as the loss of a limb or sight, the loss of fertility, or the loss of a child. The legislation's cap on these damages would harm women, children, the elderly, the disabled and others who may not have substantial economic loss (i.e., lost salary). We also noted that eliminating joint liability, restricting medical damages, and protecting manufacturers of dangerous drugs and medical devices, is a direct attack on the civil justice system.

Please consider calling or writing your House representative and Senator, urging a NO vote on HR 5 or any measure limiting medical damage awards and your rights in court. You can read the full text of H.R. 5 on the Thomas Library of Congress web site (scroll to Bill Number, search on H.R. 5).

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