Plastic Surgeon Allegedly Watched Porn While Operating; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

April 25, 2018

In This Article

Decades-Old Cap Scorned as 'Minimum Wage'

A New Mexico district court has declared the state's $600,000 medical malpractice cap unconstitutional, reports a story in the Albuquerque Journal, the state's largest newspaper.[3]

Judge Victor Lopez of the Second Judicial District Court ruled that New Mexico lawmakers had exceeded their constitutional authority when they voted in the 1990s to enact the cap, a legislative maneuver that amended the 1976 New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act. The cap covers noneconomic damages, including awards for pain and suffering.

The Lopez ruling stems from a case involving plaintiff Susan Siebert, who claims that she had to be hospitalized for more than 9 months as the result of injuries sustained during a 2011 gynecologic procedure performed by ob/gyn Rebecca Okun at Women's Specialists of New Mexico, in Albuquerque.

"A $600,000 cap isn't even the equivalent of paying someone minimum wage, if you're talking about a plaintiff who dies as a result of medical malpractice in their 20s or 30s," said Siebert's attorney, Lisa Curtis.

But Albuquerque oncologist and American Medical Association President-Elect Barbara McAneny worries that rescinding the cap could have far-reaching implications.

"We have a very difficult time in New Mexico attracting physicians to our state," she said. "One of the things I have used when I try to recruit is that we have a very good and very rational medical malpractice law. If that changes, it will make it even more difficult to bring good physicians here." (In the recent WalletHub survey, New Mexico ranked 24th in the Opportunity & Competition category and 40th in the Medical Environment category; it ranked 29th overall.[4])

In 2011, lawmakers handed Republican Governor Susana Martinez a bill that would have raised the cap to $1 million, but she vetoed it, arguing that it would have increased healthcare costs and encouraged frivolous lawsuits.

Plaintiff's attorney Curtis says she looks forward to an appeal of the Lopez ruling, in order to have higher courts weigh in on the constitutionality of New Mexico's award cap.

Severely Injured Woman Receives Mega Award

In a record-setting verdict for Chatham County, Georgia, a jury last month awarded $18 million to a woman whose undiagnosed and untreated spine infection led her to become paraplegic, according to a report on WTOC.com.[5]

Defendants in the suit were SouthCoast Health in Savannah and an infectious disease doctor who, along with the plaintiff, wasn't named in the WTOC story.

"I think the jury recognized that she [the plaintiff] was tragically, catastrophically injured and she's going to be a paraplegic the rest of her life; and as a result, the verdict reflected that," said Jeff Harris, the attorney representing the injured woman.

The physician involved in the suit is reportedly now working in Orlando, Florida.

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