Congressional bill H.R. 1215 was introduced in February 2017, and although it is called the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, it does little to protect the rights of consumers and a lot to protect the interests and profitability of big businesses – such as those that manufacture defective drugs and defective medical devices that cause serious injury to patients. The summary description of the bill says that its purpose is, “to improve patient access to health care services and improve medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.”
This sounds good, right? What it really does is strip away the consumer’s right to a jury trial, places an arbitrary cap on non-economic damages, and limits the liability of medical product manufacturers if their product has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can find out more by reading our post that explains the bill, as well as how this bill aims to eliminate your right to file a class-action lawsuit.
Protecting the profits of big business
Here is an example of how this law, if it were to pass, might impact a consumer who has been injured by a defective medical device.
The DePuy ASR™ XL Acetabular System was approved in 2005 by the FDA as a total hip replacement medical device. It was then recalled in 2010 by the manufacturer because it was a defective device that was being implanted into human bodies, failing prematurely and causing serious injury. The effects were so bad that one Vietnam veteran who had problems with the defective ASR metal-on-metal hip was awarded an $8.3 million verdict in a products liability lawsuit against the company.
Under H.R. 1215 Section 4 part (b), “In any health care lawsuit, the amount of noneconomic damages, if available, shall not exceed $250,000, regardless of the number of parties against whom the action is brought or the number of separate claims or actions brought with respect to the same injury” (emphasis ours).
If the same jury were to award an $8.3 million verdict to that vet under this new law, the non-economic damages award would be reduced to $250,000. This is a huge benefit for medical device makers and drug manufacturers whose products are already FDA approved. This will greatly limit their exposure in health care lawsuits.
Our work as medical malpractice attorneys is to protect our clients’ rights when they have suffered harm due to a medical mistake. When our clients prevail and they win a settlement or a jury verdict, that money comes out of the pockets of the huge insurance companies that insure hospitals and doctors against malpractice. These are the parties who stand to benefit from this new law. Interestingly, the law places a cap on the fees that we can charge as plaintiff’s attorneys. The attorneys for the defendants – the hospitals, the doctors, the drug makers and defective medical device manufacturers – have no limits on what they can charge.
This bill represents an attempt at federal tort reform. It takes away each state’s right to govern civil litigation with regard to health care lawsuits. Rather than protecting access to care, this bill protects big business’ access to greater profits at the consumer’s expense.
What can I do to stop H.R. 1215?
At McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC we urge you to contact your state representatives and tell them that you want them to vote “No” on H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017. We are pleased to know that you will be joining us in the fight to make sure that this bill does not pass.
If you or a loved one happens to require the services of an experienced South Carolina medical malpractice attorney, please feel free to fill out a contact form or give us a call at 888-302-7546 to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients in North and South Carolina.