Wednesday, July 23, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Old battle over medical malpractice damages flares again

walters column sig

By
From page A9 | April 20, 2014 |

The first serious kerfuffle to confront a newly inaugurated Gov. Jerry Brown in 1975 was a crisis – whether real or contrived is still being debated – over medical malpractice insurance.

Doctors and insurers complained that outrageously high damage awards, especially in obstetrics cases, were making insurance unaffordable and demanded relief.

There was even, in the spirit of the times, a sleep-in demonstration in Brown’s outer office by doctors’ wives, albeit with down sleeping bags and catered dinners.

By and by, after much maneuvering, the Legislature produced a bill to limit noneconomic damages – pain and suffering, as they were called – to $250,000 in any one case.

The cap is still in place but, critics say, is worth only a tiny fraction of its original value due to inflation, making it very difficult to interest lawyers in pursuing cases for contingency fees.

It’s been nearly four decades of ceaseless political skirmishing between the cap’s defenders – medical-care providers and insurers, mostly – and its foes, primarily lawyers who handle personal-injury cases.

The latter have often enlisted the Legislature’s Democratic leaders in their cause, but those leaders were never able to deliver the cap repeal or modification lawyers wanted.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has been trying to mediate a compromise number – $500,000 most recently – but failed.

Therefore, last month, Consumer Watchdog, an ally of the lawyer lobby, announced that it was submitting enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot.

It would raise the cap by inflation, meaning it would immediately increase at least fourfold. However, the measure encases the cap increase in lengthier “patient safety crisis” provisions perhaps more appealing to voters – requiring doctors to undergo drug testing and be more careful in prescribing drugs.

The out-front advocate for the measure is Robert Pack, a Bay Area businessman whose two children were killed by an addicted driver who had been overprescribed with drugs.

Few doubt, however, that if big money is spent to pass the measure, either directly or indirectly, it will come from the lawyers, thereby renewing their long war with the medical industry, which has already set aside an eye-popping $30-plus million for the campaign.

The situation is tinged with irony. Barry Keene, the legislator who carried the cap bill in 1975, said recently that he attempted to place an inflation escalator into the measure then, but that the lawyers didn’t want it. They thought, Keene said, that its absence would make a Brown veto of the bill more likely or make it easier to invalidate it in court.

However, Brown signed the bill and courts upheld the $250,000 cap. Now Brown is back in the governorship, and here we are 39 years later, refighting the battle.

Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him as dwalters@sacbee.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • mike kirchubelApril 20, 2014 - 9:50 am

    I have a real problem with the line: "...Consumer Watchdog, an ally of the lawyer lobby, ..." Consume Watchdog may be aligned with the layers on this one issue, but I don't believe it's a fair call to say that they are allies. They are allies of us consumers, all us little guys.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Fairfield labor pact wins City Council OK

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 11 Comments | Gallery

 
 
 
Solano leaders feel left out of Delta decision-making

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3

Polk first to file for Fairfield council

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

 
Dally seeks to retain seat on Vacaville school board

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Carpenters training center set to expand in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Governor signs 2 bills by Frazier into law

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

2 Vacaville homes hit by gunfire

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
Library friends set spring book sale

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A6

 
Video chair exercise class returns to senior center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

 
Man, woman, comic and dance contest primed for box office

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Rockville Trails hike on August calendar

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Mayor’s Commission on Crime hears from community

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A12, 12 Comments | Gallery

.

US / World

Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Assailants sought in fatal train platform beating

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Senate, House on collision course on border money

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
ACLU may fight for California migrant shelter

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9, 1 Comment

IRS employee charged with identity theft

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
George Harrison memorial tree killed by beetles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

 
Gaza blockade key to any Israel-Hamas truce deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Mexican-born professor eyed for state high court

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Airlines ban flights to Israel after rocket strike

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

Board puts soda tax before San Francisco voters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
AP source: Thieves got into 1K StubHub accounts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Obama nominee McDonald pledges to ‘transform’ VA

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Body of missing S. Korean shipping tycoon found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Crews make gains on massive Washington wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

Lax security at crash site hampers investigations

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

 
Plane crash bodies removed from war zone

By The Associated Press | From Page: A13

.

Opinion

 
 
Walmart donation benefits Meals on Wheels

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

Batson’s column on Mideast peace is wrong

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 5 Comments

 
Fix our problems first

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 7 Comments

.

Living

Today in History for July 23, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: July 23, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

How to argue appropriately with your mate

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

 
A summer sausage roll with a triple dose of fennel

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

10 Things: 10 fresh ways to use fresh blueberries

By J.M. Hirsch | From Page: B6

 
Horoscopes for July 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B6

Bulking up the classic BLT without adding fat

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

 
I’m tired of my parents judging me because of who I date

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B6

.

Entertainment

‘X-Men’ VR experience coming to Comic-Con

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
‘Downton Abbey’ back on Jan. 4 for season 5

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
.

Sports

Raiders enter camp with ‘chip’ on shoulders

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers start fresh after forgettable offseason

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Giants beat Phillies 9-6 in 14 innings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s agree to 10-year lease to stay in Oakland

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
AP source: Cavs to sign Andrew Wiggins to contract

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Paterno son, other former assistant sue Penn State

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Pyrenees please Nibali, Rogers in Tour Stage 16

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Warriors announce Brandon Rush’s signing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
CEO: Rivers to quit Clippers if Sterling stays

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3, 1 Comment

Racehorse owned by Britain’s queen fails dope test

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Mudcats score early, get 7-3 win over South Bay Storm

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

Seahawks start atop AP Pro32 rankings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Selig still waiting on Tommy John report

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

.

Business

Ackman goes after Herbalife’s nutrition clubs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8, 1 Comment

 
China meat scandal hits Starbucks, Burger King

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Solid earnings drive more gains in US stocks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Microsoft 4Q earnings hurt by Nokia acquisition

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Apple post biggest earnings gain in nearly 2 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
One in every 25 New Yorkers is a millionaire, study says

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: B8

California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Obituaries

John Klefstad

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6