Tort Law: a Cap on Damages

The tort system was created to summarize compensation methods and amounts for wrongs and harms committed by one party to another. Tort law, in essence, aims to offer the damaged party a chance to restore their state back to its point of origin; in other words, the point of tort law is to place a financial obligation on an individual who causes harm to another party. The decision to put a cap on damages is not just harmful, but also makes it very difficult to seek lawful judgment in the court of law.

Here is few issues show ultimately why putting a cap on damages is not a desirable measure in resolving problems contained within the tort law. First of the issues is the prevention to receive an adequate reward in damages which will compensate for the losses due to existing cap on damages. In some of the cases when plaintiffs seek relief for their damages does not come close to the numbers which will cover their already occurred sufferings and due to existence of the cap will not adequately compensate for the continues physical problems as well as emotional distress and suffering.

As an example can be used the case appeared before the judge in a Pennsylvania court. The case, Ashley Zauflik v. Pennsbury School District et al, was tried before a jury and the Hon. Robert Mellon, with MSZLM attorneys David Cohen, Esquire and Kristy Fischer, Esquire representing the defendant Pennsburg School District. The Plaintiff was a high school student struck by a runaway bus while waiting outside the Pennsburg High School suffered injuries by a “run away” bus that resulted in the amputation of one of her legs.

Claims were brought against the School District for negligence in the operation of the bus, as well as the bus manufacturer for products liability. The jury returned a verdict in the amount of $14. 036 million, representing $338,580 in past medical expenses; $2,597,682 for future medical expenses and $11. 1 million for past and future pain and suffering. By way of post-trial Motions, MSZLM attorneys argued, inter alia, that the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa. C. S. A. § 8553(b) applies to limit total recoverable damages against the School District to a maximum of $500,000 per one accident.

Plaintiffs argued that the statute was outdated and unconstitutional, violating the Pennsylvania and U. S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, due process and other provisions. Following substantial briefing and oral argument, Judge Robert Mellon ruled that the damages cap applied, recognizing prior precedent highlighted by MSZLM which determined the statute to be properly resistant to constitutional attack, and thus molded the award to $500,000, along with a limited award of pre-judgment interest. Plaintiffs have appealed the ruling to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which remains pending.

It shows that existence of a cap on damages precludes the plaintiffs to receive adequate rewards. Another argument against a cap on damages provides that in fact some plaintiffs would not receive full recovery from the law suits due to inflation. For example, in California, attorneys are limited by MICRA, or the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975, which caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000. This is a cap that has not increased since its inception, despite nearly 40 years of inflation. If it had increased, it should be over $1 Million.

Since MICRA’s passage in 1975, the consumer price index has increased 320%, but the cap on damages has not changed. It is qualifies to state that a cap on damages does not justify the compensation of damages to those who suffered from the wrong actions of others. Caps also do not prevent so Called “Frivolous” Lawsuits. Proponents of Tort Reform cite “frivolous” lawsuits, high insurance premiums and better access to health care as reasons to put limits on damages. But the truth of the matter is that arbitrary caps do not result in reduced premiums, but rather increased profits for the insurance companies.

This is why the leaders of Tort Reform are generally the insurance companies and do not represent general public interests. By imposing the cap on damages, it is also precludes general population of people seek the rewards in the courts of law and use the attorneys services due to such limitations. The amounts of money spent by the attorneys on the preparation of the law suits itself are much grader most of the times than the rewards of compensation of damages itself. All of the issues listed above support the side of those who believe why the opposition to a Cap on damages should prevail.