Maryland News

Panel approved Maryland medical malpractice recommendations

A special Senate commission yesterday approved legal changes sought by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., endorsing the creation of a state fund to subsidize doctors' insurance costs for the next four years. Even though some strides were made, the parties cautioned the major points of contention between Ehrlich and top Democrats in the General Assembly remain.

The Senate panel endorsed a lower cap on pain and suffering damaged in wrongful death cases, which would bring it down from $1.6 million to $975,000. While doctors and insurance companies have continued to support medical malpractice caps, the move was greatly opposed by trial lawyers arguing it would have little effect on doctors' escalating malpractice premiums.

Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld argued there was a lack of real evidence showing capping damages would affect doctors' premiums but would instead “perpetuate a very damning stereotype of lawyers.” The negotiations are expected to continue between Ehrlich, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch. A $650,000 lower cap for pain and suffering is included in a bill drafted by the governor for wrongful death cases. Significant differences still remain, but the actions thus far were intended to move state leaders closer to convening a special legislative session.

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