$1 million cap on noneconomic damages from medical malpractice in Iowa Senate

Senate Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday that would bar jurors from awarding more than $1 million in noneconomic damages to victims of medical malpractice unless there is “actual malice.”

Medical providers are backing the bill, which is one of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ priorities because they say the lack of such a limit is a major factor in Iowa’s shortage of healthcare workers. Opponents, including trial attorneys, say the bill would deny Iowan’s justice if medical malpractice results in serious injury or death.

Mikayla Brockmeyer, a third-year medical student at Des Moines University, said many of her classmates are planning to leave Iowa. And she said she has family and friends affected by a lack of access to health care in rural communities.

“We now need a doctor’s liability reform and we are not going to let this pass us by, together with the doctors in training who are considering other options in other federal states,” said Brockmeyer. “This is more than a competition. This is something Iowa doctors will think about for years to come.”

Former Trump administration official Sam Clovis has an active lawsuit against a group of western Iowa medical providers alleging their negligence paralyzed him from the chest down. He criticized the Republican legislature for trying to cap jury awards in cases like his.

“They say they protect life, and then they turn around and try to put value on that,” Clovis said. “That’s honestly wrong. And it’s immoral.”

Clovis supported medical liability limits while running in the 2014 GOP Senate primary.

In 2017, the Iowa legislature imposed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering unless “the jury finds that significant or permanent loss or impairment of bodily function, significant disfigurement.” or death” that justifies more money .

Hospital and healthcare provider officials said “soft cap” isn’t working. They said health facility insurance rates were too high and doctors didn’t want to stay in Iowa because of the threat of huge jury trials.

Supporters of the bill point to a ruling last year in which a jury awarded $97.4 million to the family of a baby whose brain was severely damaged at birth. It is believed to be the largest medical malpractice verdict in the state’s history.

More than half of that money was earmarked for economic damage, which would not be limited by the bill before the Senate. The boy is expected to require 24-hour care for the rest of his life. The clinic has since filed for bankruptcy.

dr Shannon Leveridge, an obstetrician from Davenport, said the community lost 10 of its 28 outpatient midwifery providers in the past year. She said maternal health care was “particularly fraught” with concerns over medical malpractice lawsuits.

“I can’t stress enough how much this is affecting our workforce,” said Leveridge. “And that’s affecting the women and the children, the babies in our state.”

Opponents of the bill said very few cases of medical malpractice go to trial each year and that there is already a rigorous process for plaintiffs to get to this point. They said such cases have declined over the past decade and that concerns about insurance rates in Iowa are overdone compared to other states.

Tom Slater, a West Des Moines attorney, said he was a conservative Republican but disagreed with the law.

“Where is the badly injured patient?” Slater asked. “This is the kind of bill that will … put the finishing touches on not only curtailing patients’ rights, but eliminating them altogether.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee introduced the bill Wednesday afternoon by an 11-7 vote, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposing. They amended the bill to increase the $1 million cap by 2.1% each year beginning in 2028.

House Republicans plan to consider the same bill.