Excessive Medical Costs and Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Cap

As Indiana law stands now, medical malpractice awards are limited to $1.25 million. This might and should change as many see the law as outdated, senseless, and unconstitutional.An Indiana jury awarded an Evansville couple $15 million for their medical malpractice suit against St. Mary’s Medical Center and an associated doctor. The Bobbitts, suing on behalf of their daughter, are now preparing to lose most of that award on appeal.

The basis of the malpractice suit alleged that the hospital and Dr. Mureena Turnquest-Wells were professionally negligent when the defendants improperly conducted a fetal blood procedure on the couple’s daughter without adequate staffing and did not provide continuous ultrasound guidance throughout the procedure. As a result, the Bobbitt’s daughter suffered severe brain damage and cerebral palsy in all four limbs. The damages the suit sought was to provide for the couple and their child as she is wheelchair bound, fed via a tube, and requires constant nursing care.

The expenses of such an injury are staggering, especially when extrapolated out over the possible decades. The damages sought in the suit were intended to cover the massive attorney and court fees, an insurance lien, and healthcare plan for their daughter. During trial, the long-term health care costs the couple should expect to pay ranged from $5 to $10 million.

The hospital has only commented that it is unhappy with the verdict, and an appeal of the decision is highly likely considering Indiana’s medical malpractice cap. “It’s not a cap. It’s an ax. Calling it a cap is polite,” the attorney for the Bobbitts said, describing the family’s position and has expressed intentions to challenge the constitutionality of the cap.

This will not be Indiana’s first challenge to the cap. In 1980, a challenge to the cap was denied by the Indiana Supreme Court. Although this infamous upholding of the cap has lasted, there still exists room for challenges. The Appellate Court stated that the cap “can be revisited and that the challenging party has the burden to prove that changes in circumstances require reversal of existing case law.”

The Indiana damage cap on medical malpractice suits is one of America’s oldest caps, enacted in 1975. The purpose was to ease a crisis of medical liability insurance during the 1970s. The crisis escalated so much that doctors could not afford insurance costs for certain high risk procedures. Over the past four decades the limit has been raised twice but many are seeking its repeal as the medical insurance landscape is much different today.

Indiana Attorney General Gregory Zoeller has pointed out that he does not believe the statute can be killed by a court challenge but rather the legislature must overturn it. He further cites the past two raises to the cap’s limit as proof that the legislature is aware enough to keep the cap up to date. However, the Bobbitt’s attorney still expects a challenge on constitutional grounds if his clients’ damages are reduced and does not understand what exempts this potentially unconstitutional statute from a legal challenge since legal challenges have overturned many outdated statutes.

Here at the Indiana Medical Malpractice firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we are dedicated to providing up-to-date, knowledgeable and experienced advocacy for you and your claim. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of medical mishandling, please contact our office for a free confidential consultation by calling (888) 532-7766 or contact us online.

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