Governor Sanders Signs Gender-Affirming Care Malpractice Legislation
On March 13, 2023, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed legislation making it easier to sue providers of gender-affirming care for children, a move that could effectively reinstate a blocked ban on such care. The law, which is set to take effect this summer, would allow anyone who received gender-affirming care as a minor to file a malpractice lawsuit against their doctor for up to 15 years after they turn 18. Under current Arkansas law, medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years of an injury. Legal experts have said the change could close access to gender-affirming care for children by making it nearly impossible for providers to get malpractice insurance.1
Governor DeSantis Signs Legislation to Combat Lawsuit Abuse
On March 24, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill (HB) 837, Civil Remedies, to decrease frivolous lawsuits and prevent predatory practices of trial attorneys. Governor DeSantis stated, “I am proud to sign this legislation to protect Floridians, safeguard our economy and attract more investment in our state.”2
Among the provisions provided for in the law are proposals that will abolish one-way attorney fees, modernize “bad faith” laws, halt inflated jury awards in injury cases and eliminate damages if a person is considered to be at majority fault in the cause of their injury. The law also adopts the federal standard of eliminating attorney’s fee multipliers and provides that one-way attorney fee provisions can only be applied in limited situations. Additionally, the law provides uniform standards for juries in calculating medical damages and reducing the statute of limitations for general negligence cases from four years to two years.3
In an analysis of the law provided by the House Judiciary Committee, the authors assert that in addition to lowering potential tort costs, an indirect benefit of the law could be lower insurance and medical costs, however it could also lower the recovery of plaintiffs in certain cases.4
Noneconomic Damage Cap on Malpractice Awards Approved by Iowa Legislature
A bill capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits was signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds on February 16, 2023, after passing both chambers of the Iowa Legislature.5
The legislation, House File 161,6 sets the limit in lawsuits against healthcare providers in medical incidents that result in the loss or impairment of a bodily function, substantial disfigurement, loss of pregnancy or death, at $1 million for clinics and individual doctors, and $2 million for hospitals. Noneconomic damages are awards meant to compensate for subjective harms caused by the incident, such as pain and suffering. The bill would not limit economic damages, like money awarded for financial losses. This new limit accompanies Iowa’s existing $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in cases where patient injuries are not permanent, substantial or fatal.7
Proposed Legislation Caps Noneconomic Damages & Contingency Fees in Medical Malpractice Cases
In December 2022, Senator Nicholas J. Sacco proposed legislation that would establish a cap on compensatory damages and limit contingency fees for medical malpractice cases.8 Currently, New Jersey does not have a limit or maximum amount permitted on recovery for noneconomic loss.
According to SB3343,9 attorneys would not be able to contract for or collect a contingency fee in excess of 25 percent of the dollar amount recovered for a settlement agreement before filing a civil complaint or demand for arbitration. The bill would impose a 33 percent contingency fee limit in the case of a settlement, arbitration, or judgment after a civil complaint or demand for arbitration is filed. The attorney for the plaintiff would be able to file a motion with the court or the arbitrator for a higher contingency fee, which may be awarded at the court’s discretion.
The bill also establishes a cap of $500,000 for an action involving a wrongful death and $250,000 for actions that do not involve wrongful death. The proposed law also would permit the periodic payment of damages in certain instances and would restrict benevolent gesture liability.
Governor Grisham Signs Healthcare Bills to Improve Access and Affordability
On April 7, 2023, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law five healthcare-related bills that will support and strengthen the state’s healthcare workforce and make healthcare more affordable and accessible.
- Senate Bill 7.10 This bill, Rural Health Care Delivery, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics, Rep. Gail Armstrong and Rep. Marian Matthews, provides support for rural healthcare delivery in parts of New Mexico often underserved by available healthcare options.
- Senate Bill 16.11 This bill, Create Health Care Authority Department, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Liz Thomson, establishes a single unified department responsible for healthcare purchasing, regulation and policy that provides a foundation for effective management and oversight of heathcare.
- Senate Bill 51.12 This bill, Cost Sharing Contributions for Prescriptions, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Liz Thomson, is a consumer protection bill and is the result of the Prescription Drug Taskforce who studied the increasing cost of prescription drugs.
- Senate Bill 245.13 This bill, Rural Emergency Hospital Licensure, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Sen. Stuart Ingle, amends the Public Health Act to allow for certain rural health facilities to apply for rural emergency hospital licensure to meet federal healthcare reimbursement requirements.
- Senate Bill 521.14 This bill, Medical Malpractice Changes, sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth, Senate Minority Floor Leader Greg Baca, House Speaker Javier Martinez and House Minority Floor Leader Ryan Lane, amends the Medical Malpractice Act to cap claims for independent healthcare facilities, such as urgent care, ambulatory surgical centers, and free-standing emergency rooms that are not hospital controlled.
Governor Lujan Grisham stated, “It’s worth noting that many of these bills passed with bipartisan and often unanimous support for legislation that fixes significant issues with the health care system and strengthens the pieces we know are working.”15