House Passes Bill To Limit Medical Malpractice Litigation

June 30, 2017

This week, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 1215) a bill supported by the Society through our work in The Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA). The bill was introduced by Representative Steve King (R-IA) and would impose limits on medical malpractice litigation in state and federal courts by capping awards and attorney fees, modifying the statute of limitations, and eliminating joint and several liability.

The bill establishes:

  • Provisions governing health care lawsuits where coverage for the care was provided or subsidized by the federal government, including through a subsidy or tax benefit. The bill does not preempt certain state laws and federal vaccine injury laws and rules.
  • The statute of limitations is three years after the injury or one year after the claimant discovers the injury, whichever occurs first. For a minor, the statute of limitations is three years after the injury, except for a minor under six years old, for whom it is three years after the injury, one year after discovery of the injury, or the minor's eighth birthday, whichever occurs later. These limitations are tolled under certain circumstances.
  • Noneconomic damages are limited to $250,000. Juries may not be informed of this limitation. Parties are liable for the amount of damages directly proportional to their responsibility. These provisions do not preempt state laws that specify a particular monetary amount of damages.
  • Courts must supervise the payment of damages and may restrict attorney contingency fees. The bill sets limits on contingency fees.
  • Certain evidence regarding collateral source benefits (e.g., insurance payments) may be introduced in lawsuits involving injury or wrongful death. Providers of collateral source benefits may not recover any amount from the claimant in such a lawsuit. These provisions do not apply if Medicare is a secondary payer or there is third party liability for Medicaid services.
  • The bill provides for periodic payment of future damage awards.
  • A health care provider who prescribes, or dispenses pursuant to a prescription, a medical product approved by the Food and Drug Administration may not be a party to a product liability lawsuit or a class action lawsuit regarding the medical product.

In the letter of support HCLA sent to House leaders it was noted that “this legislation adopts many of the reforms which have been thoroughly tested in the states and which have proven successful in improving the medical liability climate in those states. At the same time, it protects state authority by applying its provisions only in cases involving health care provided via the expenditure of federal funds, and provides substantial flexibility for states to adopt variations of these reforms in order to meet their unique circumstances.”

The bill passed the House by a vote of 218-210 and will now be sent to the Senate for their consideration.