The goal of tort reform is to reduce the amount of money corporations and insurance companies pay out to victims. What better way to accomplish that than to legislate how much juries can award to plaintiffs? That’s exactly what damage caps do.
Damage caps typically apply to non-economic damages, sometimes referred to as pain and suffering, but more strictly defined as anything that cannot be monetized the way future wages could be. Therefore, physical pain, distress, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life – which extends to sterility, physical impairment, or loss of a loved one – fall under the umbrella of non-economic damages, and therefore could be capped.
Damage caps are not only heartless and unfair, they also may be unconstitutional on several levels. As citizens, we’re guaranteed the right to a trial by jury, but if the jury’s hands are tied by legislation, how is that truly a jury trial? Our Constitution also enshrined a separation of powers that would keep the branches of our government independent. How is it constitutional for the Legislature to dictate how the court operates? Isn’t that a clear violation of our separation of powers? Finally, Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law. Damage caps would treat victims with high non-economic damages differently from those with low non-economic damages, making our courts less fair.
The argument for damage caps is that they’ll end the tort reform created frivolous lawsuit crisis. If plaintiffs can only hope to recover $250,000 at most for their non-economic damages, those with fraudulent claims will be deterred from filing. What tort reform supporters don’t consider is how damage caps affect those with truly catastrophic injuries. Imagine if your child was born without the ability to walk, play, or communicate due to a doctor’s mistake. They’ll never ride a bike, go to college, get married, or have children. They’ll require constant, round-the-clock care for the rest of their lives, leaving you panicked over what will happen to them when you’re no longer around. Does $250,000 sound sufficient to cover your child’s suffering?
Damage caps are unfair and do nothing but benefit negligent doctors, insurance companies, and corporations.