The California Medical Association (CMA), together with the American Medical Association (AMA), has filed an amicus brief supporting the constitutionality of the non-economic damages cap of California's landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). This appeal is the latest in a protracted line of cases challenging MICRA's constitutionality since the Legislature enacted the statute in 1975. The California Supreme Court has previously upheld the constitutionality of MICRA's cost saving provisions, including MICRA's $250,000 cap on non-economic damages.

Despite Supreme Court precedent, MICRA is once again being challenged after a trial court reduced the non-economic damages awarded in a medical negligence case to $250,000. The plaintiff argues that in order to ensure access to justice, California needs more malpractice lawsuits. The plaintiff asserts that the potential for “low” awards dissuades contingency-fee lawyers from taking such cases, making the limitation on non-economic damages unconstitutional. The plaintiff also argues that Section 3333.2 of the Civil Code violates the right to damages awarded by the jury and that MICRA is obsolete.

In their brief, CMA and AMA argue that to strike down MICRA would contravene decades of California law, directly violate Supreme Court precedent and contradict the Legislature’s stated purposes in enacting the limitation on non-economic damages. CMA and AMA explain that to adopt plaintiff's line of reasoning would be to reintroduce the very volatility that MICRA was enacted to prevent and would only serve to increase the costs of medical negligence litigation, thereby threatening access to affordable health care for all Californians. The brief also argues that the plaintiff does not have a right to a certain measure of damages and the courts may not invalidate legislation by second-guessing whether the legislation is adequately serving its purpose. The appeals court is expected to schedule the case for oral argument in the coming months.

Click here to read the brief.