Congress Set to Vote on H.r. 1215, Bill Limits Rights of Injured Citizens

Although H.R. 1215 is named the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” it will, if enacted, limit the rights of injured citizens. As we have seen all too often, legislators are more interested in serving the needs of health care and insurance companies than the consumer.

One of the most treasured rights we have as American citizens is the right to a trial by our peers. We have this right for both criminal and civil cases. Much of the trust we have in our judicial system is based on the faith we have in our fellow citizens being free to make their own choices in a jury room. Regardless of whether or not we agree with a verdict, we are always careful to respect those who assume the grave responsibility of sitting in judgment. History tells us that sometimes juries get it wrong, but it also tells us that, overwhelmingly, juries get it right.

Our elected officials in Washington want to limit that bedrock of our justice system. The House is set to vote on June 28, 2017 on H.R. 1215, a bill that would take away one of the fundamental responsibilities of a jury in a civil case: it would severely limit a jury’s right to determine economic damages, as they deem appropriate, in a healthcare claim.

It would negate any previous state laws on caps on damages, if any; the federal law would supercede state laws.

Many legal scholars have written about this travesty of a bill, and The American Bar Association opposes it. Over 80 national and state organizations have come out against it.

Here are the highlights of H.R. 1215:

  • Health care lawsuits will be limited if the health care was subsidized by the government.
  • A federal cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages if an individual was injured by negligent or abusive health care facilities.
  • A federal cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages if an individual was injured by defective drugs.
  • The statute of limitations would be lowered from three years after the discovery of an injury to one year.
  • A plaintiff cannot receive any award in a lump sum.

Non-economic damages are used not only to compensate a plaintiff for a ruined life caused by someone else’s negligence, but also serve as a balance to insurance companies’ greed. When an insurance company can’t accurately predict what damages might be, it is less likely to consider lawsuits simply a cost of doing business.

The American Association for Justice released a statement from CEO Linda Lipsen:

“There is no evidence that rigging the legal system to strip Americans of their rights to hold wrongdoers accountable will lower the costs of health insurance. In fact, studies have found that limiting consumer and patient rights may actually increase costs to patients.”

“We can be certain that depriving Americans of their rights to hold negligent health care providers, nursing home corporations, and drug companies accountable will have disastrous consequences for patients who are injured or killed by dangerous medical products or services. Americans harmed by the reckless actions of medical professionals have a right to hold the responsible parties accountable. If no one is accountable, no one is safe. The American Association for Justice stands strongly on the side of patients and will strive to protect their ability to enforce their rights.”