House Bill 1215 is currently pending in congress. The bill has been shadowed by hundreds of more pending bills, and now it’s time to shed some light on it. If passed, house Bill 1215 essentially will create immaculate obstacles for people who seek to hold health care professionals accountable for medical negligence, also known as medical malpractice. Although many states have already imposed certain limits on what damages can be sought, the bill goes beyond these laws and will set forth draconian limits on the lawsuits filed by victims all over the country.
Misleadingly, albeit cleverly, named Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, would force a maximum limit of $250,000 for non-economic damages such as emotional anguish, stress, or pain and suffering. Supporters of the claim say these limits will prevent frivolous lawsuits. Those against the bill say it affects malpractice victims whose damages exceed the limits; unfortunately these often include those who have suffered the most. Furthermore, the cap could be devastating for children, women, elderly, and people with a disability.
House Bill 1215 also includes a statute of limitations for lawsuits involving medical malpractice. If passed, most patients will have one year from the time of discovery to file a suit. Joanne Doroshow, the executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, says “almost no state has a statute of limitations that severe.” During this year period, victims will also have to overcome numerous hurdles including getting an affidavit from expert witnesses who meet very strict requirements. In other words, the bill clearly states that only a doctor practicing or teaching in the same state or neighboring state can act as an expert witness. The court will be able to waive this if witnesses would “otherwise not be available.”