Published 6/1/2010

Advocacy in the states

The Georgia Supreme Court struck down that state’s $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages. The state’s high court ruled that such limits violate the constitutional guarantee of trial by jury and cited the state constitution’s comprehensive constitutional jury trial provisions.

The statute in question was signed into law in 2005 and also limited noneconomic damages against providers at $350,000, awards against multiple facilities at $700,000, and awards against multiple facilities and providers at $1,050,000. The unanimous court ruling will apply retroactively, including to the cases currently under appeal.

In March, the Maryland House Committee on Health and Government Operations and the Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs held a hearing on companion bills (HB 324 and SB 672). This legislation clarifies that patients in the state have access to diagnostic imaging services provided in the office of their treating physicians.

The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) submitted testimony in support of this crucial legislation to the House and Government Operations Committee. These hearings illustrated how far this issue has progressed in the state of Maryland, thanks to the strong work of a coalition of physician groups that include the Maryland Orthopaedic Association. Seventeen of the 23 members of the committee are cosponsoring the legislation.

Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert signed into law legislation that will lower the state’s medical malpractice caps from $400,000 to $350,000. Senate Bill 145 also created a 10-year statute of limitations on bringing forth such claims. The new law also requires a medical liability plaintiff to obtain an affidavit of merit from a healthcare professional if the prelitigation panel finds the lawsuit lacks merit. Finally, the law limits the liability of a healthcare provider for acts of an “ostensible agent,” defined as someone who is not an agent of the healthcare provider but who the plaintiff reasonably believes is an agent of the provider.

“Chiropractic Orthopedists”
Eleven states currently recognize the specialty of “chiropractic orthopedists” in either their statutes or administrative codes. Chiropractors in many states are utilizing the rulemaking authority of state boards to establish this specialty. Such was the case in May 2009 when the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners approved the categories of “chiropractic orthopedist” and “chiropractic radiologist.” In states that do not recognize the specialty, practitioners assume the label through membership in the American Board of Chiropractic Orthopedists.

For more information on this issue, please contact Kevin Jones in the AAOS office of government relations at jonesk@aaos.org