Special Session

State legislators are making major progress in the battle over medical malpractice insurance reform. The governor and House of Representatives now appear willing to compromise on the issue of lawsuits for pain and suffering for victims of medical errors. Looking into the faces of the victims and their loved ones seems to be softening some hearts at the capitol.

Jason Armitage has been sitting in hearings to let lawmakers see a real person affected by the medical malpractice issue. His mother says the $250,000 limit on pain and suffering the governor and House members have been seeking would average out to just pennies a day for her son's many years ahead.

The presence of patients injured by medical errors and their loved ones seems to be having an effect. House members are now talking about so-called flexible caps, limits that would allow higher payouts for gross negligence.

Rep. David Simmons used the example of a woman whose doctor cuts off the wrong breast; she can still work so she's not eligible for economic damages.

“I don't believe that we're treating that woman fairly when that woman is deprived of any kind of significant recovery for that devastation in her life,” says Rep. Simmons.

Gov. Jeb Bush has pushed all along for a firm $250,000 cap on pain and suffering awards. But now even he is looking for compromise.

“I don't have a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality about this. I just want to get it done,” says Gov. Bush.

So do legislators who are now hopeful they might be able to pass a meaningful reform bill by the end of the week.

Some lawmakers fear imposing a cap on non-economic damages, no matter what the limits are, won't get to the real heart of skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates. They want legislation that prevents insurance companies from delaying a settlement, then refusing to pay a higher jury award.

They also want a guaranteed rollback of insurance rates as part of the reform bill.


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