New law would replace citizen juries with politicians

Legislation introduced this week would increase but limit the amount of money awarded in a trial against a health care provider, doing away with a jury’s input.

Currently, the amount recoverable in medical malpractice suits for noneconomic damages like pain, disability, disfigurement and trauma is capped at $250,000 unless a jury decides more is warranted.

House File 517 would take away the jury’s authority to award more based on the circumstances of the case, and set a politically predetermined cap at $1 million. 

At the subcommittee hearing where the legislation was considered, physicians who worry about doing certain risky procedures, and people who own clinics in the state said a law like this might force clinics to move out of the state or discourage graduates from practicing in the state.

“As it stands right now, we’re at risk every day. We don’t have the backing, we’re locally owned, we’re a local business. We don’t have the reserves to take on a very high verdict case,” said Jason Moore, a critical care physician in Iowa.

Doctors weren’t the only ones with concerns, though. Attorneys spoke about potential problems that could come from changing this law.

They pointed out that Iowa has very few medical malpractice cases, and that they have concerns about these decisions being taken out of the hands of juries.

People on juries should decide the outcome of court cases, not politicians. -Brad Lint, Iowa Association for Justice

Brad Lint, the executive director for the Iowa Association for Justice, shared this statement:

“House File 517 would force a one-size-fits-all, government-mandated, capped dollar value on human life in medical negligence court cases, even when a life-altering injury or wrongful death occurs.

“This bill is a government overreach that takes power away from citizen juries and tilts the scales in favor of big government, state politicians, and the most powerful corporations. People on juries should decide the outcome of court cases, not politicians.

“This legislation will not lower health care or medical professional liability insurance costs. It won’t increase access to health care. But it will compound the misery of many patients who face life-altering injuries or families dealing with the death of a loved one. Instead of getting an amount of compensation that was decided by a citizen jury, injured patients and their families stand to get an unconstitutional, government-imposed cap. The House should reject this bill.”

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