State has $620,000 limit on amount one can get for non-economic damages

Baltimore Sun
Tuesday, October 22, 2002

After a day of deliberations this month, jurors decided that a dying Baltimore County woman deserved $8 million from the doctor who had ignored a nasal growth that turned cancerous and spread throughout her skull. What they didn't know was that Lana M. Carey could collect only a fraction of that amount.

Jurors are not told that Maryland is one of 24 states with limits on awards for pain and suffering, known as "noneconomic" damages. No matter how much money a jury awards for these damages - in Carey's case, $7.5 million - the plaintiff can collect only about $600,000.

The Maryland General Assembly implemented the limit in 1986, a time when many states were passing reforms intended to stem rising malpractice insurance premiums.

Now, some Baltimore area attorneys are hoping that Carey's case and others like it will persuade the legislature to take another look at the issue.

It is part of an acrimonious national debate over award limits that pits trial lawyers and consumer rights groups against doctors and insurance companies.

. . .

"It has nothing to do with tort law," said Joanne Doroshow, the founder and executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a nonprofit consumer rights group based in New York. "We're in a very predictable part of a cycle when interest rates drop and the economy weakens. Every time it happens, the insurance companies say, 'It's not our fault, it's the lawyers' and the juries'.' "

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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