CHA News Article

Supreme Court Limits Applicability of MICRA Cap

A recent decision by the California Supreme Court holds that the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act’s (MICRA) $250,000 limit on noneconomic damages (pain and suffering, emotional distress) in a medical negligence action applies only to damages awarded by a court, not to settlements.

In Rashidi v. Mosher (Dec. 15, 2014, S214430) the plaintiff — blind in one eye following sinus surgery — sued his surgeon, the hospital and the manufacturer of the medical device used during the procedure. Prior to trial, the hospital settled for $350,000 and the manufacturer for $2 million, with the case going to trial against the surgeon alone. The jury found the surgeon liable for the plaintiff’s future medical care and $1,325,000 in noneconomic damages, which the court reduced to $250,000 based on the MICRA cap.

Neither the hospital nor the manufacturer was to be at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries at trial. On appeal, the surgeon argued that the MICRA cap applies to the total amount of noneconomic damages a plaintiff may recover in a medical negligence lawsuit and, therefore, that a portion of the plaintiff’s settlement with the hospital should have applied to reduce the award of $250,000 in noneconomic damages against the surgeon. The settlement with the manufacturer was not subject to the MICRA cap, which applies only to medical negligence actions.­

In this week’s decision, the California Supreme Court rejected the surgeon’s argument. The Court unanimously held that the MICRA cap on the recovery of noneconomic damages applies only to damages awarded by a court, not to settlements. Because the surgeon failed to prove that any of the settling defendants were at fault and to what extent, the surgeon was solely liable for the $250,000 in noneconomic damages awarded in the judgment. The Supreme Court refused to address another issue raised by the plaintiff:  the constitutionality of MICRA’s damages cap.