The longstanding cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages in California health care liability cases will rise next year, according to the Californians Allied for Patient Protection. Stakeholders, which include CAPP and the Consumer Attorneys of California, have agreed to an increase in the cap to $350,000 in non-death cases and $500,000 in death cases, effective January 1, 2023. The cap will then go up incrementally over the next ten years to $750,000 and $1 million, followed by an annual inflation adjustment of 2 percent.
The agreement heads off a ballot proposition in November to lift the cap for “catastrophic injuries,” defined as death, permanent physical impairment, permanent disfigurement, permanent disability, or permanent loss of consortium. Now the California legislature must enact legislation enshrining the agreement for the governor’s signature, which is expected to occur in an expedited fashion. We will certainly monitor these increases to determine their effects on patient access.
What could this mean, if anything, for the future of the Texas cap? For the past several sessions TTLA and others have unsuccessfully sought legislation to index the cap, and, as we have reported, a federal lawsuit is pending in Austin challenging the cap’s constitutionality. In contract to California, however, Texas does not have initiative and referendum, so that particular form of leverage is not available for anti-cap advocates here. We fully anticipate that the current cap will remain in place for the foreseeable future, and will work with our allied organizations Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, Texas Health Care Association, Texas Alliance for Patient Access, and others to keep it there.