The Colorado State Senate has given final approval to a bill that would increase the amount juries can award in some medical malpractice suits.
Senate Bill 164 applies to cases where someone has been disfigured or impaired. It would allow them to sue for up to $1 million in damages, or more if the judge allows. Colorado was one of the first states in which tort reform arguments gained support in the state legislature. Caps on medical malpractice damages were put in place as early as 1986, and amended as recently as 2005. This recent amendment restricted claims for non-economic damages – pain, suffering, loss of consortium, permanent disfigurement AND permanent disability to $300,000. So currently, the Health Care Availability Act places a $300,000 cap on all non-economic damages.
Now members of the state legislator are working to allow some claims to seek greater compensation when the victim has suffered significant disfigurement or impairment. The Senate approved the bill 18-16 on Monday in a largely party line vote. Senator Bob Hagedorn of Aurora was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans against the bill.
Though the expansion will apply only to a handful of cases involving people who have been severely injured by bad medical care, it will allow a slightly greater degree of justice for those victims. Sadly, Colorado will remain one of the most-conservative states in terms of relief for medical malpractice victims.