Since the initial reforms in 1975, Alaska has continued to pass important reforms, including the 1997 Alaska Tort Reform Act. Also known as HB 58, this Act capped the dollar amount of awards for punitive and noneconomic damages, limiting the award for injury or death to the greater of $400,000 or the injured person‚Äôs life expectancy in years multiplied by $8,000, with limits of $1,000,000 or the person‚Äôs life expectancy in years multiplied by $25,000 in cases of permanent physical impairment or severe disfigurement. The act also revised the state‚Äôs liability allocation system from joint and several to several and created a 10-year statute of repose (actions for wrongful death must be brought within two years).
In 2005, the Alaska legislature further tightened damage caps through the Alaska Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, setting the cap to $250,000 in cases where the injury is determined to be less than 70 percent disabling. For injuries resulting in death or that are 70 percent or more disabling, the caps remain at $400,000.
On Sept. 14, 2018, the Alaska Supreme Court significantly strengthened the protection for records and materials submitted to, or reviewed by, peer review organizations with its landmark decision interpreting the Alaska Medical Peer Review Statute. In a unanimous decision reversing two lower court rulings, the Alaska Supreme Court in Mat-Su Valley Medical Center v. Bolinder (Mat-Su v. Bolinder) ruled that the medical peer review statute prohibits discovery of data, information, proceedings and records of medical peer review organizations, but does not protect from discovery a witness‚Äôs personal knowledge and observations or materials originating outside the medical peer review process. The Supreme Court ruled that the Alaska Medical Peer Review Statute protects from discovery ‚Äúall data and information acquired by a review organization in the exercise of its duties and functions.‚ÄĚ Thus, all of the materials presented to the peer review committees were privileged and not subject to discovery. Mat-Su v. Bolinder is the first time the Alaska Supreme Court has considered the scope of the medical peer review statute in a material way even though the statute was originally enacted in 1976.