A state court in Albuquerque has ruled that the New Mexico legislature exceeded its constitutional authority in enacting the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act to the extent that the Act restricts the right of plaintiffs to receive an unaltered jury verdict.
The New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act does not limit recoveries for punitive damages, medical care, and related benefits, but it does provide a limit of $600,000 for recoveries arising from an injury or death to a patient occurring as a result of medical malpractice. The Act has other restrictions applicable in trials of medical malpractice cases in New Mexico, including providing that in jury cases, jurors are not to be given any instruction concerning the Act’s cap on recoverable damages. The Act’s stated purpose is to make professional liability insurance available to health care providers in New Mexico.
The court’s ruling with respect to the constitutionality of the Act’s imposition of a cap on damages arose in the context of a personal injury case brought in state court after a woman from Placitas had been hospitalized for several months as a result of injuries that she suffered during a gynecological procedure. Absent the imposition of a cap on the amount she is able to recover through the litigation by the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act, the plaintiff could be awarded $2.6 million in damages.