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Proponents of a measure to change California’s medical malpractice cap are pushing back the initiative until the pandemic ends to get it into the ballot.
Groups behind the ballot measure, which include Consumer Watchdog, had been trying to get it on the upcoming November ballot. And though they reportedly collected 900,000 signatures, which is enough to qualify the initiative for the November 2022 ballot, the group chose to make the move in an effort to keep the focus on the cap and not the ongoing health crisis.
The president of Consumer Watchdog, Jamie Court, reportedly said: “We didn’t want the initiative to be obscured by the COVID crisis and the politics around it. We wanted the voters to have a clear choice without COVID in the air.”
The proposed initiative, the Fairness for Injured Patients Act, would adjust the maximum $250,000 compensation cap on quality of life and wrongful death damages. Additionally, it would also adjust the compensation cap for inflation, allow judges and jurors to decide that compensation above the cap is appropriate in certain cases of catastrophic injury or death, and require that juries be informed about the existence of the cap.
Set by the California Legislature and Governor Brown, the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA) set California’s maximum compensation cap at $250,000. The 45-year-old cap is worth 80% less today, currently worth $50,768 in 1975 dollars, and disproportionately impacts Black and brown Californians, as minorities are more susceptible to medical errors. According to the new measure’s proponents, indexing the $250,000 cap for inflation would raise it to $1,231,084.45 in today’s dollars.
Charles Johnson, the campaign Chairman of the ballot measure, lost his wife following complications of a Cesarean section. He reportedly said: “This ballot initiative is in large part about fixing a system that does not provide primarily black and brown families with a fair day in court when they face gross medical negligence.”
On the other hand, opponents of the measure have said that making the cap fluid and dependent on the case, results in making these cases susceptible to appeals, lengthening out processes, and delaying payments for the victims.
The office of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the Fairness for Injured Patients Act would be the first ballot initiative approved for the November 2022 election.
Back in 2013, Consumer Watchdog was also behind an unsuccessful effort to raise the $250,000 limit on pain and suffering to $1.1 million.