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Doctors, hospitals join to fight changes to malpractice awards

ElectionsPoliticsPlanned Parenthood

The fight to raise the cap on awards in medical malpractice cases was officially joined on Thursday with groups backed by litigators filing a ballot initiative that could be before voters next year, and a coalition of doctors and hospitals responding with a new political committee to defeat the proposal.

At issue is a 38-year-old California law that limits the amount of money that juries can award for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000. The initiative filed on Thursday would raise that cap, adjusting the award level for inflation -- currently about $1.1 million -- and allowing subsequent annual adjustments.

The initiative was submitted to the state attorney general’s office for review on Thursday. It will need more than 504,000 signatures from registered voters to qualify for the November 2014 ballot.

In response to Thursday’s filing, opponents of the measure formed a campaign committee aimed at defeating it should it qualify for the ballot.

The leaders of the effort include the heads of the California Medical Assn., the California Dental Assn., the California Hospitals Assn. and Planned Parenthood. The groups are all major donors to political campaigns, and a spokesman for the new coalition says they are prepared to spend more than $50 million to defeat the initiative.

The effort threatens to divide groups that have joined forces to back Democratic campaigns in recent years, and have all been key supporters of Gov. Jerry Brown.

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Battle flares over 38-year-old medical malpractice law

anthony.york@latimes.com

Twitter: @anthonyyorklat

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