New Mexico court strikes down medical malpractice damage cap

The Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque recently struck down a New Mexico law that caps damages in medical professional liability lawsuits at $600,000. The cap does not apply to medical expenses, but does cover compensation for things like lost wages and noneconomic, pain-and-suffering damages. Judge Victor Lopez ruled that the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act is unconstitutional because it unjustly violates a plaintiff’s right to receive an unaltered jury verdict.

The underlying lawsuit that struck down the damage cap involves a woman who alleges she was hospitalized for nine months as a result of negligence during a gynecological procedure. A jury found for the plaintiff in a sum of $2.6 million.

New Mexico first addressed its medical liability system through the 1976 New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act, which better defined the standard of care; restricted actions based on a lack of informed consent; established a statute of limitations and a medical review commission; and capped the dollar amount of recoverable damages at $500,000. The cap amount has since been raised to $600,000.

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