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Medical Malpractice

Up to 440,000 people die each year because of medical mistakes. That's the equivalent of a 747 crashing every 10 hours.  Consumer Watchdog fights for the right of those patients--and the thousands of others injured by medical errors--to take negligent doctors and hospitals to court.

If an airliner crashed twice a day, everyday, we would have new laws protecting passengers, not limits on their legal rights.  But doctors, hospitals and their insurance companies spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress and state legislatures to stop us from holding them accountable. They claim that lawsuits by injured patients drive up the cost of medical malpractice insurance. We know that greedy insurance companies, not injured patients seeking justice, are to blame when premiums are excessive.

Below are some resources about our fights for greater patient safety.



Troy, 10, and 7-year-old Alana Pack were killed on a street near their Bay Area home a decade ago by a doctor-shopping prescription drug abuser stoned on Vicodin and vodka. Since then, their Dad, Bob Pack, has been battling to enact changes in state law and medical practices to ensure such a tragedy will never happen again.

Stymied by Sacramento, Bob Pack turned to the ballot for a solution to California's patient safety problem. Proposition 46, also known as the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act would have saved lives and money by:

  1. Mandating drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse.
  2. Require that physicians use the state's existing prescription drug database to curb doctor-shopping drug abusers.
  3. Promote justice for patients by adjusting the state's malpractice cap to account for 38 years of inflation. Read the full measure here: http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2014/general/pdf/text-of-proposed-laws1.pdf#prop46

In 2014, Proposition 46 was the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California. The opposition, funded by $58 million dollars from mostly insurance companies and hospitals, led a negative attack campaign that blanketed the airwaves. Led by Bob Pack and Consumer Watchdog, other proponents of the initiative included families of victims of medical negligence, Senator Barbara Boxer, consumer attorneys and patient safety advocates. Outspent 5:1 the initiative failed. However, during the Prop 46 campaign, millions of Californian families learned about the injustice of California’s cap on medical malpractice damages and the dangers of preventable medical errors. Today, the fight for increased patient safety continues.

Senator Barbara Boxer’s on Prop 46: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eineSE94mdE

Bob Pack on Prop 46: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yADJPX7g5xY

Carmen Pack on Prop 46 (en español): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTqaLtyNCpQ&feature=youtu.be


Patient Stories


This site chronicles the fate of injured patients denied access to justice by a cruel 38-year-old law in California.

We've launched a dedicated site that houses video interviews with a number of medical malpractice victims. Their heart-breaking stories are a constant reminder of the need for reform.

Medical Malpractice Story Library
This is a collection of detailed stories of real Californians who suffered the damage of medical negligence and the injustice of malpractice caps.


Reports & Resources

How Insurance Reform Lowered Doctor's Medical Malpractice Rates In California: And How Malpractice Caps Failed
In this groundbreaking report, Consumer Watchdog shows the success of insurance regulation and dispels the myth that malpractice caps worked in California--the model for so many proposals around the country.

Rate Savings Chart
This is a chart detailing the $102 billion Californians have saved on their insurance rates between 2002 and 2014 thanks to the insurance reform enacted by Proposition 103 in 1988. $88 million of the total amount saved went to doctors in California because we blocked unjustified malpractice insurance rate increases.

Medical Malpractice Premiums Graph
This graph (pictured to right) compares insurance premiums after the California caps law, "MICRA," and after the passage of insurance reform Proposition 103.

False Accounting: How Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies Inflate Losses to Justify Sudden Surges in Rates and Tort Reform
A Consumer Watchdog study found that medical malpractice insurance companies consistently inflated the amount they estimated they would pay out in claims. The companies used the overstated figures to justify enormous increases in doctors' premiums and pressure legislators to enact restrictions on patients’ legal rights. Read the press release about the report.

Five Dangerous Myths about California's Medical Malpractice Restrictions
Fact sheet exposing five dangerous myths used to justify California's legal restrictions on injured patients (MICRA).

Rate Regulation, not Arbitrary Caps on Damages, Keeps Insurance Premiums Down (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63SBOXqtUm0)

In this interview with NBC, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones hammers the myth on California’s medical malpractice caps: “But here’s the thing that nobody really talks about, and that is that those caps have not prevented excessive medical malpractice insurance rates. I know this because one of the first things I did as insurance commissioner was look at the medical malpractice insurance rates, and I discovered that the medical malpractice insurers were paying out in claims just a fraction of what they were collecting in premiums from doctors and nurses and other medical providers.”

Changes to California’s Damages Cap Won’t Effect Insurance Premiums (Mojan’s report, not yet uploaded because I don’t know if we want to put it online)

From 2007-2013, medical malpractice insurance companies paid out less than 25 cents out of every premium dollar; the remainder goes to general overhead, lawyers’ fees plus other loss adjustment expense, agent commissions, and underwriting profit – instead of to victims and their families. Insurance companies have acknowledged that they have been over-reserving, calling it a “positive development.”  Furthermore

Low-Income and Minority Communities are Much More At Risk of Medical Negligence, Unable to Seek Justice Because of California’s Caps on Damages (low-income report we never put out)

California’s decades-old cap is discriminatory for minorities and people with low-incomes, who are already at higher risk of receiving poor medical care and suffering a physician’s negligence, because they have less “economic value” under current California law.

Changing California’s Medical Negligence Cap Will Not Affect Access To Care or Force Doctors Out of State (http://www.protectconsumerjustice.org/if-medical-malpractice-insurance-rates-are-driving-doctors-out-of-business-why-are-there-more-doctors.html)

A majority of states with no cap have more physicians per capita than California (see graph). In fact, the opposite may be true: a report found that there are 21% more doctors per capita in states that don’t cap damages than there are in states with caps.

Smoking Guns

Medical malpractice insurance companies have made an art form out of deflecting responsibility for doctors' high insurance rates. The insurers claim that if patients' legal rights are limited--typically with a cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits--then doctors' premiums will drop. But these smoking guns pull back the curtain. When malpractice insurers have to explain their rates to state insurance regulators, they admit that damage caps do little, if anything, to lower medical malpractice insurance rates. We got our hands on a few of those admissions.

Letter from Marsh USA to South Carolina State Legislature
The company running South Carolina's largest medical malpractice insurer testified to the state legislature in 2005 that "our data is just not adequate" to guarantee that a cap on non-economic damages would lower doctors' malpractice premiums.

GE Medical Protective Filing with Texas Department of Insurance
The company formally filed this data in 2004 with the Texas Department of Insurance after the state enacted severe limits on non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims (Texas Proposition 12). The company explains why it needs to raise rates for physicians despite the caps, because capping damages created virtually no savings for the company.

SCPIE Executive's Testimony in California Court
California's medical malpractice cap has been on the books for thirty-eight years. A Vice President and Actuary of SCPIE, James Robertson, testified in court in 2003 that California's malpractice cap law, known as MICRA, does not reduce the risk of malpractice insurance in California. Pay special attention to page 4.



Consumer Watchdog has provided testimony before state lawmakers in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Washington and Oregon, as well as Congress, regarding the success of insurance reform in California and the failure of malpractice caps to lower doctors’ insurance premiums.

Assessing the Need to Enact Medical Liability Reform
February 27, 2003 -- Consumer Watchdog Founder Harvey Rosenfield presents testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health on the success of California Insurance reform, Proposition 103, in restraining medical malpractice insurance premiums and the failure of the state's severe malpractice liability caps to reduce rates.

HR 4600 Will Harm Patients & Enrich Only Insurers
July 17, 2002 -- Testimony of Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court before U.S. Congress.

Regulating Damages vs. Regulating Insurance Rates: The California Experience
April 22, 2004 -- Testimony of Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Douglas Heller before the Oklahoma state legislature.