In 1975, California passed the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). MICRA limits the amount of money a plaintiff can be awarded for pain and suffering associated with injury through medical malpractice. But more recently, the effort to raise the bar on noneconomic damages in California malpractice cases has been gaining steam.
In March of this year, more than 800,000 signatures were submitted for verification to place a measure known as the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014 on the ballot in November. Approximately 500,000 signatures were needed to push a vote on the Act forward.
While the bid to increase noneconomic damages has been brewing for years, the tragic case of Troy and Alana Pack gave the measure an identity and keenly illuminated the suffering caused by medical malpractice.
In October 2003, Troy and Alana Pack, ages 10 and seven, were walking with their mother on the sidewalk to a Baskin Robbins ice cream store in their Northern California community. Without warning, a late model Mercedes crossed three lanes of traffic, jumped the curb and struck the Pack children and their mother. Troy and Alana died soon after. Their pregnant mother survived, but tragically, she lost the twins she was carrying.
Investigation revealed that the drugged driver of the car had “doctor shopped” for the painkillers and muscle relaxants she took before she struck the Pack family. The driver’s doctors were reckless in prescribing narcotics without properly investigating their patient’s condition — she was a prescription-seeking addict — and the other medications she was taking, and thus, they bear partial responsibility for her actions.
Recently, an attempt at compromise by raising the MICRA malpractice cap to $500,000 failed. The new potential ballot initiative asks that the legislature:
Raise the noneconomic damage cap to over $1 million
Require drug and alcohol testing of doctors, with reports to the California Medical Board
Require the use of a statewide database before prescribing defined controlled substances
Grief cannot be measured in dollars. But compensation helps victims and their families afford the costs of undue harm. Those in San Diego or elsewhere in Southern California who suffer injury or another condition resulting from medical negligence should seek an attorney’s guidance for help taking legal action.