NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 15, 2004

California's 1995 law capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000 has reduced jury awards significantly, says a study from the Rand Institute for Civil Justice.

The study examined jury awards in 257 California malpractice cases between 1995 and 1999 and found that:

  • The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act has reduced jury awards by 30 percent on average.
  • In 45 percent of cases, judges had to reduce noneconomic damage awards handed down by juries, and the average reduction was $366,000.
  • Plaintiffs' attorneys saw their fees decrease 60 percent from $140 million to $56 million based on the law's sliding scale.

The legislation has been hailed as a model for national tort reform, but critics say the law reduces awards too much for the most critically-injured patients, particularly young children.

Source: Nicholas M. Pace, Daniela Golinelli, and Laura Zakaras, "Capping Non-Economic Awards in Medical Malpractice Trials: California Jury Verdicts Under MICRA," Rand Institute for Civil Justice, July 12, 2004.


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