According to Capitol Media Services, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is calling for Congress to adopt national legislation to limit or cap noneconomic awards for damages in medical malpractice cases. The state currently places no limitations on what may be awarded. Ducey says that this adoption could be enacted as a provision if Congress is able to pass the new overall replacement for The Affordable Care Act. Daniel Scarpinato, speaking on the Governor's behalf, said he was disappointed that Congress seems unable to make progress thus far.
Ducey's comments come the day after Arizona Senator John McCain cast the deciding “no” vote on the latest “skinny repeal” proposal in Washington. Ducey explains that tort reform is a critical issue in Arizona and limits would help stabilize rates of malpractice insurance for medical providers. Noneconomic damages include awards for losses such as pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages for willful or wanton actions that act as a punishment and deterrent.
Ducey says that doctors are struggling with rising malpractice premiums and the litigation of these cases further drains already scarce state resources. David Diamond, President of Arizona Attorneys for Justice, feels that nationwide caps or limits would be an example of federal “overreach” into matters that also run contrary to the wishes of the voters.
Arizona's Constitution Opposes Caps
Arizona has long–standing constitutional provisions including Article 31 which states that the state may not enact laws to limit the amount that can be recovered in injury actions unless the injured was in the process of committing a felony. These laws are part of the Declaration of Rights, which could be considered similar to the federal Bill of Rights. Arizona voters have rejected several attempts at repealing this law over the years; however, if a federal law was enacted, it would supersede the state provisions.
Summary of AZ Medical Malpractice Laws
They define medical malpractice acts as civil actions against medical providers for injury or death that is the result of misconduct, negligence, errors, or inactions. Cases are heavily influenced by medical expert testimony from those who meet the necessary qualifications as follows:
- Experts who render testimony on the standards of care or practice must be certified medical professionals
- They must be licensed as a professional in the medical specialty that is the subject of the claim
- They must have spent the majority of their professional time in the prior year actively engaged in the specialty
- Activity may include clinically-based practice
- Activity may include providing instruction or conducting research in the specialty field
- Expert witnesses may not render service in these matters on a contingency basis that is based on the final outcome of the litigation