Med-mal cap survives constitutional challenge in SC

by Rob Luke

The limit on Louisiana’s medical malpractice lawsuit payouts is still $500,000 following a recent state Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court this week sent back to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals a ruling that declared the cap unconstitutional. The cap, established in 1975, has been unpopular with consumer advocates, who say malpractice insurance costs have risen regardless of the cap.

The Appeals Court ruled the cap “unconstitutional because it no longer provided an adequate remedy to victims of malpractice.” The court stated that the cap should be raised to $1.7 million to correct for inflation.

But “adequate remedy” was not at issue in the original case and so could not be the basis of the appellate court’s finding, the Supreme Court ruled.

Sending the case back to the Appeals Court could mean a wait of a year or two before the matter of whether the cap is constitutional or not is finally decided. Insurers greeted the news of a reprieve on the cap with relief.

Louisiana’s largest med-mal insurer, Lammico, was happy with the Supreme Court decision but “we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” admitted company representative Sue Chopin.

Other supporters of the cap say tossing it would increase insurance premiums, raise health-care costs and force doctors out of the state.
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