Malpractice Bill Approved

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The Mississippi House and Senate agreed to a medical malpractice compromise at the state Capitol today. Lawmakers finally came to an agreement in a special session that began on Sept. 5.

The bill passed the Senate first, 41 to 6. At 6:20 p.m., the House followed suit, approving the measure 87 to 32.

House and Senate conferees agreed to the compromise shortly after
2:00 a.m. Monday, about ten hours after negotiations resumed Sunday. The conferees were given about a week to meet on their own while lawmakers were sent home to await the outcome of talks.

Some doctors say they're having trouble renewing liability policies because some insurers are leaving Mississippi and others are raising rates.

The compromise puts in place a cap on jury awards on non-economic issues, commonly referred to as pain and suffering. The bill would put
a $500,000 cap in place on January 1st, 2003. The cap would increase to $750,000 on January 1st, 2011, and to $1 million on January 1st, 2017. The bill would take effect January 1st, 2003 and apply to damage lawsuits filed on that date and after.

Lawmakers also compromised on the division of financial responsibility among two or more defendants in a medical malpractice suit, also called joint and several liability.

The House and Senate agreed to hold defendants responsible for their percentage of fault in pain-and-suffering awards. They also agreed that the financial responsibility of one defendant, whose liability is limited by law, can't be passed on to another.