Michigan Legislature Passes Two Medical Malpractice Tort Reform Bills

On Dec. 13, 2012, the Michigan Legislature passed two bills pertaining to medical professional liability. Senate Bill 115 caps recoverable non-economic damages at $280,000 and reduces the total amount of future damages to present values at a rate of 5 percent per year, compounded annually, for each year in which those damages accrue. Senate Bill 118 limits the time period that one is able to file a medical malpractice claim on behalf of a deceased person and bans prejudgement interest on attorney fees and costs awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. Both bills passed with overwhelming support in the Michigan House.

“This package of legislation is a great first step toward making Michigan a contender in attracting and retaining high-quality physicians,” said Sen. Roger Kahn, MD, himself a cardiologist. “The health needs of citizens across the state continue to grow, and we need to make sure Michiganders are getting the best care possible. Without changes, Michigan will continue to lose qualified doctors and many physicians will choose to open and maintain their practices in other states.”

The two bills that are now law were introduced in May of 2012 as part of a “Patients First Reform Package,” a four-bill bundle intended to address the state’s medical malpractice environment and looming physician shortage.

One of the bills that did not pass, Senate Bill 1116, would have removed physician as well as healthcare facility liability in a malpractice case if it is determined the doctor acted with a reasonable, good-faith belief that the conduct was well-founded in medicine and in the patient’s best interest. Critics of the legislation argued that it gave immunity to bad doctors should they injure a patient, and when debated this past summer, several hundred protested its contents a the state capitol in Lansing, Mich. Championed by the Michigan State Medical Society, the physician lobby argued the language means that a doctor would still be obligated to the prevailing standards of care and that such reform measures are necessary to keep the state attractive for physicians.

Senate Bill 1117, which also did not pass, would have created more stringent requirements for individuals delivering expert testimony in a medical malpractice case.