In a huge win for the patients of New Mexico – in a potentially precedent-setting court case – Judge Victor S. Lopez ruled that the medical malpractice cap of $600,000 is unconstitutional. At this time, the ruling is tied to just one woman’s case, but it does have the potential to apply to all medical malpractice cases throughout the state, now that the Defendants have appealed.
To understand this recent ruling, it’s important to take a step back and look at what happened leading up to this point. Back in December, we posted on this case. For a brief recap, we brought a medical malpractice case against a doctor who made a near deadly mistake during a surgery. Large holes were left in the woman’s uterus and intestines and she almost died. She ended up having to re-learn how to eat, walk and talk again, and spent months on a ventilator. She now has permanent physical and psychological damage.
A jury heard her case and agreed: the doctor was negligent. The woman was awarded $2.6 million. However, under the New Mexico Medical Malpractice Cap, the doctor and employer were attempting to reduce the amount to just $600,000.
At Curtis & Lucero we fought on the side of this truly lovely woman and contended that the medical malpractice cap is outdated and unconstitutional, and it unfairly targets those who need it the most: those truly and seriously injured – or even those who die – due to medical malpractice. It’s simply not fair that a doctor can make a grave and nearly deadly error, but then the victim of such a mistake would only be able to recover the cap.
Now, a judge in New Mexico has agreed and has ruled in favor of New Mexico’s patients.
What does this mean for the future of medical malpractice victims in New Mexico?
For it to apply to all cases, the New Mexico appellate courts will need to examine the constitutionality of the malpractice cap and uphold the ruling as well.
For those who suffer due to medical negligence – cap or no cap – no one should feel guilty for seeking monetary damages. Medicine is a business and a wrongfully lost life or permanent serious damage must have significant value or no patient is safe.
This said, we hope this case sets the precedent that is needed in future cases so those New Mexico patients seriously hurt or who die should receive the damages they deserve.