Medical liability reform came to Louisiana early on, with the passage of the Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act (LMMA) of 1975. The Act came in response to the medical liability crisis of the early-1970s, which saw the rate of claims more than double nationwide, leading to double-digit rate increases in physician premiums. The LMMA attempted to combat this trend through a three-pronged approach, including: 1. A $500,000 cap on total damages in medical malpractice cases (not including future medical costs); 2. The establishment of a Patient Compensation Fund, which provides for claim payments in excess of $100,000, up to the $500,000 damage cap; and 3. Creation of a medical review panel, comprised of three healthcare professionals and one non-voting attorney. The panel must determine whether a defendant acted within the appropriate standard of care and, if not, the panel must provide an opinion on whether or not the defendantâ€™s actions contributed to the injury. The panelâ€™s report is considered expert testimony and may be presented at trial.
Physicians and healthcare providers must meet certain requirements to be protected by the LMMA and participate in the stateâ€™s PCF. Physicians must carry at least $100,000 in primary insurance coverage from a traditional insurer â€“ or self-insure by posting a $125,000 security bond â€“ and pay a surcharge to the PCF. The PCF pools the risk of claims in excess of the required $100,000, so that the plaintiffâ€™s total possible recovery is $500,000 plus future medical costs, which are paid by the PCF as they are incurred.
Louisiana has also reformed its joint-and-several liability laws to make defendants liable for only their share of damages and added a fee requirement when requesting that a case be reviewed by the medical review panel to help weed out frivolous claims. In 2006-07, a strong challenge to Louisianaâ€™s damage cap was raised when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the stateâ€™s damage cap to be unconstitutional, as it was not indexed for inflation and did not provide an â€śadequate remedyâ€ť for those injured by a healthcare provider with medical damages in excess of $500,000. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court voided the decision on procedural grounds. In 2011, Louisiana legislatures attempted to pass a bill, known as SB 61, which would have secured the damage cap going forward by amending the state constitution to give the legislature the explicit power to â€śdetermine limitations on liability damages in medical or health care liability claims and other claims against healthcare providers.â€ť Though SB 61 died in committee, the stateâ€™s damage cap remains in place for now.