Michiganâ€™s stable medical liability climate can be put down to several tort reforms that the Wolverine State has passed since the mid-1980s. Prior to these reforms, Michiganders were experiencing a serious access-to-healthcare dilemma. Medical malpractice claims in the state had spiraled upward from ten per 100 doctors in 1979 to 25 per 100 by 1985â€”an increase of 150 percent in just six years. From 1970 to 1984, the large Detroit metro-area counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb had seen their malpractice filings jump 1,100 percent. Medical professional liability insurance premiums had also doubled between 1980 and 1984; growing even faster in the higher-risk specialties. In response, Michigan physicians were shying away from high-risk procedures. In 1985, 42 percent of Michigan family physicians reported they had either ceased delivering babies or reduced the number they delivered; an even higher percentage of doctors reported that they had cut back on surgery and treating patients likely to require intensive care.
In response to cries from the healthcare community, the Michigan legislature passed Public Act 178, a bipartisan piece of legislation that introduced several major changes to the stateâ€™s tort law. The 1986 reforms included venue reform, requiring lawsuits to be filed in the county where the alleged injury occurred; joint-and-several liability reform; a higher standard for expert testimony; and, perhaps most important, a cap of $225,000 on noneconomic damages. Michigan has periodically strengthened these reforms. In 1993, Public Act 78 was passed, which increased the non-economic damages cap to $280,000, but also got rid of many exceptions to the cap, which had been left in the 1986 reforms. Public Act 78 also increased standards for expert testimony, required all medical malpractice plaintiffs to file an affidavit of merit and permitted binding arbitration for medical malpractice cases that involved damages not in excess of $75,000. Michiganâ€™s noneconomic damage cap has increased periodically to keep pace with inflation. It currently stands at $438,800 for most injuries and at $783,500 for certain permanent disabilities, such as permanent cognitive disability or paralysis.