July 22, 2020

Californians will have to wait until the pandemic ends to vote on an initiative to change the state’s medical malpractice cap.

Proponents of a measure to change California’s medical malpractice cap announced today they have reportedly collected 900,000 signatures, enough to qualify the initiative for the November 2022 ballot.

The cap is set by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, MICRA, passed in 1975.

Groups behind the ballot measure, which include Consumer Watchdog, which was also behind an unsuccessful effort in 2013 to raise the $250,000 limit on pain and suffering to $1.1 million, had been trying to get it on the upcoming November ballot. The groups filed the initiative in September 2019.

A Consumer Watchdog spokeswoman said the move from the upcoming ballot wasn’t due to a problem gathering signatures during the pandemic – several measures had signature-signing efforts upended by COVID-19 lockdowns – but the intent was to keep the focus on the cap and not the ongoing health crisis.

“Actually we had the signatures,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “The issue was we didn’t want the initiative to be obscured by the COVID crisis and the politics around it. We wanted the voters to have a clear choice without COVID in the air.”

The proponents also said they have raised more than $4 million for the campaign to adjust California’s 45-year-old cap on quality of life and survivor damages.

The Fairness for Injured Patients Act would adjust for inflation the maximum $250,000 compensation cap set by the California Legislature and Governor Brown in 1975 on quality of life and wrongful death survivor damages. The 45-year-old cap is worth 80 percent less today, only $50,768 in 1975 dollars, and disproportionately impacts Black and brown Californians.

If passed, the initiative would enable judges and jurors to decide that compensation above $250,000 is appropriate in certain cases of catastrophic injury or death, and require juries to be informed about the existence of the cap.