Indiana lawmakers approved an increase to Indiana's cap on medical malpractice damages. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 49-0 to send the bill to Governor Mike Pence for consideration.
Indiana presently limits total damages to $1.25 million. The cap is at least 18 years old (since July 1, 1999), and considered low in comparison to other states.
Senate Bill 28 will raise the cap to $1.65 million in 2017 and $1.8 million in 2019. Legislators believed the cap might be ruled unconstitutionally low and unfair to plaintiffs from studying case verdicts in other states that had medical malpractice caps. In a case challenging the constitutionality of the cap, the court determined the cap on total damages did not violate equal protection in Johnson v. St.Vincent Hosp., 404 N.E.2d 585.
According to an article studying the constitutionality of medical malpractice caps “Medical Malpractice: U.S. And International Perspectives,” the five most common constitutional
challenges that caps legislation face are: claims based on access to courts, right to jury-trial, equal protection, due process, and separation of powers. Damages caps passed in response to
documented strains in the liability insurance market are usually upheld in court against constitutional challenges.
Even with the increase, Senator Brent Steele said Indiana's cap remains low compared with other states, according to IndyStar. Steele persuaded a House committee to increase the cap to $2.25 million by 2031 in order to keep up with the rising cost of health care. Doctors opposed the cap increase. House lawmakers reduced Steele’s proposed increase to $1.8 million.
The Indiana Trial Lawyers Association has the opinion that Indiana's current cap attracts bad doctors. The Legislative Services Agency estimates the increase will have little effect on doctor malpractice insurance premiums. The Legislative Services Agency provides members of the Indiana General Assembly with nonpartisan, objective legal support, fiscal analysis, and technology services.
Most malpractice awards are paid by the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, financed by surcharges on the state’s doctors and other health care professionals. For example, the fund paid nearly $65 million to settle around 300 malpractice claims against a Merrillville, Indiana sinus doctor.