Skelton: Battle over lawsuit limits will draw big money

Consumer activists and lawyers want an initiative on next year's ballot that would increase the maximum amount of damages people could seek in lawsuits over medical malpractice causing pain and suffering.

The state has had the same $250,000 cap since 1975. The initiative, which needs enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, would raise that to $1.1 million -- essentially adjusting the cap for four decades of inflation. There would also be annual adjustments.

George Skelton says in his Thursday column that it's a fairly simply idea.

"Gasoline, real estate, medical care -- they've all skyrocketed in cost," he writes. "Everything's gone up, that is, except damage awards for pain and suffering caused by medical malpractice."

However, Skelton expects an expensive and controversial campaign battle, with trial lawyers on one side and medical providers and insurance companies on the other.

"This is headed for a big bucks battle at the ballot box, costing both sides tens of millions of dollars -- unless the Legislature can settle the issue," he writes. "And that's not likely."

All of Skelton's columns are here.