Nevada Medical Malpractice Cap May Be Lifted for Gross Negligence

Legislation that would lift the $350,000 damages cap on Nevada medical malpractice lawsuits in cases where the jury finds that the doctor is guilty of gross negligence, passed the State Assembly last week and is now headed to the Senate.

The current cap on non-economic damages, which refers to the compensation a malpractice victim receives for pain, suffering and other losses that can not be quantified in monetary terms, was enacted in 2001 in response to calls for tort reform in the state.

Following a recent high profile case of gross medical malpractice, in which two colonoscopy clinics in Las Vegas exposed thousands of patients to contaminated medical equipment that caused over 100 people to develop Hepatitis C, many have pushed for an exception to the low cap.

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The bill passed by the Nevada Assembly would remove the damages cap in cases of gross negligence, where a jury finds a conscious indifference to the consequences of the actions or an indifference to the safety and welfare of a patient.

Proponents of tort reform argue that caps for non-economic damages help control insurance premiums and prevent doctors from leaving the state, although many dispute the actual success of such measures.

Supporters of the new legislation argue that removing the cap in cases of gross medical negligence will help ensure that doctors maintain high standards of care and encourage those in the medical profession to report instances where colleges have acted negligently.

Under the bill, the current $350,000 cap on damages for such intangibles as emotional or physical distress, pain, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, loss of sexual organs, loss of a loved one or physical impairment, will remain in place for cases of medical malpractice which do not rise to the level of gross negligence.

None of the victims who were injured in last year’s Las Vegas hepatitis outbreak would be able to take advantage of the new bill if it is enacted, as it would not apply retroactively as it is currently drafted.

Last Monday’s 26-15 vote in favor of lifting the malpractice cap in Nevada has advanced the legislation to the Senate.

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