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Would You Support California Measure Raising Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

It looks like many Californians do. Supporters need 504,760 valid signatures to get a measure on the ballot. They'll be turning in about 830,000, they say.

An initiative that may reach the state ballot would raise the limit for which people could sue in medical malpractice cases. Patch file photo.
An initiative that may reach the state ballot would raise the limit for which people could sue in medical malpractice cases. Patch file photo.

Backers of a wide-ranging initiative that includes raising the limit on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and requiring random drug and alcohol testing of doctors plan today to submit in Norwalk petitions with about 830,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

If approved by voters, what backers have dubbed the "Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act," would adjust the $250,000 limit for pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits that has been law since 1975 for inflation.

If the $250,000 limit had been adjusted for inflation since 1975 it would now be $1,090,989.78, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

The measure's provisions also include requiring hospitals to conduct random drug and alcohol testing of doctors who practice there; doctors to report other physicians who appear to be impaired by drugs and alcohol on duty; and reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board.

It would also require health care practitioners to consult the state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.

The initiative authored by technology executive Bob Pack would result in higher malpractice costs for state and local governments at least in the low tens of millions of dollars, potentially ranging to more than $100 million annually, according to an analysis prepared by the Legislative Analyst's Office and Department of Finance.

The analysis also found the potential state and local government costs associated with changes in the amount and types of health care services potentially range from relatively minor to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The initiative is opposed by more then 700 organizations representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, labor unions, local governments and schools, according to Kim Stone, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, which lobbies the Legislature to reduce what it calls "unwarranted and excessive litigation that increases business and government expense."

The passage of the measure would increase medical liability costs and make it harder to attract doctors to the state, Stone said.

Valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters -- 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 general election -- must be submitted by today to qualify the measure for the November 2014 ballot.

The initiative is named for Pack's son and daughter who were killed when they were struck and killed by a car driven by a drugged driver as they were walking on a sidewalk in Danville with their mother. The crash also killed Pack's unborn twins.

--City News Service

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