Let’s say a doctor carelessly performs eye surgery on you. As a result of his negligence, your vision is impaired for life. You are only 30, so you have a long life of impaired vision in front of you. You hire a New York medical malpractice lawyer and take him to Court. What should fair compensation be to you for the doctor’s malpractice? Well, if the impairment isn’t so bad, if glasses can mostly correct it, maybe $250,000?
Now let’s say the same doctor carelessly performs the same operation on you, but this time blinds you for life. Darkness surrounds you for the next 50 years. You’ll never see your kids or wife again. You’ll only hear them. What’s fair compensation for your anguish, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of all the things a seeing person can do for the next 50 years of your life?
According to Governor Cuomo’s proposed fiscal budget, $250,000. Same as if your vision had merely been impaired. That’s called a medical malpractice “non-enconomic award cap” (a/k/a a “med mal cap”). It’s also called a travesty of justice.
I hear you, dear reader. You just blurted out, “hey, wait a minute, before we start talking about travesties of justice, did you just say this med cap law is in the Governor’s proposed budget? What the hell is a rule like that doing in a fiscal budget for the State of New York?
Good question. (My readers are smart!). Answer: a group of New York hospital and insurance lobbyists convinced him to put it there – apparently because they knew they could never get a law like that passed if it went through the normal democratic process.
If the Governor’s fiscal budget passes, then the “med mal cap” passes, too. If that happens, no matter how horrendously crippled any quack-of-a-doctor might leave you, you are entitled to no more than $250,000 in compensation.
OK. Maybe I’m over-reacting. Truth be told, there’s really only one problem with the med mal cap rule: It is cruelly, viciously, unjust. Picky, picky, right?
I can’t help it. You see, I went to law school. And I learned a few things there. One thing I learned was that the purpose of our justice system was — well — to render justice. And they taught us that justice means greater compensation for greater harms, and lesser compensation for lesser harms.
Governor Cuomo is a law school graduate, but he must have skipped that class, because his one-size-fits-all $250,000 medical malpractice cap flies in the face of any notion of “justice” that has ever embraced humankind’s mind since we first crawled out of caves and began holding court around camp fires.
Why doesn’t the governor propose to get rid of our justice system altogether and replace it with an inquisition or something? That would save the hospitals money, too. But it would have the advantage of being more honest. A medical malpractice justice system that features an arbitrary “cap” awarding the same $250,000 to the visually impaired victim as to the blinded victim is a charade, and it is blind to justice.
Governor Cuomo is about to commit medical malpractice on our justice system. He wants to poke its eyes out. If his budget passes, medical malpractice awards will be rendered blind to justice.
But there’s hope — Democrats, who dominate the New York Assembly, are opposed to capping non-economic awards for medical malpractice, and are proposing an alternative budget that would eliminate it. Those guys didn’t skip that law school class about justice! Thank God for that!
Let’s keep justice in our system of justice!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.