Virginia: Medical Malpractice Legislation – a Lawyer’s Perspective

Virginia: Medical Malpractice Legislation – a Lawyer’s Perspective

On January 11, 2011, The Virginian-Pilot headlined “Deal Would Raise Cap on Malpractice Suits in VA”. It covers a compromise hammered out between the Medical Society of Virginia and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association to increase the Commonwealth’s statutory limitation of $2,000,000.00 on medical malpractice awards by $50,000.00 per year beginning in 2012 to a maximum of $3,000,000.00 in 2031.

On January 12, 2011, the General Assembly came into session. House Bill 1459 (which may be heard on the house floor by January 21st) and Senate Bill 771 are identical bills incorporating the medical malpractice agreement, which have been filed.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that a Senior Vice President of the Virginia Medical Society said it did not see a pressing need to increase the medical malpractice cap, because only 7, claims in 2008 were greater than $1,500,000.00. But that self-serving angle ignores the caps perennial chilling effect: as defense interests know and intend, the cap tends to operate a “glass ceiling” on many settlements, depressing the dollar amounts of awards and settlements alike versus what they would have been without any cap.

The medical malpractice cap is “pork barrel” legislation for the monied privileged healthcare and insurance industries. The other citizens of Virginia do not get to limit their liability for wrongdoing, and the cap re-victimizes the most severely injured victims of medical malpractice.

Significantly, The Virginian-Pilot also reported in the same article that the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (“VHHA”) still seeks special legislation to “address a 2006 decision by the Virginia Supreme Court that allows factual documents about hospital incidents to be admitted as evidence at trial.” More specifically, VHHA wants the General Assembly legislatively to overrule Mr. Waterman’s landmark medical malpractice case of Riverside v. Johnson, 272 Va. 518 (2006).