By KATHLEEN O. BEITIKS
... Continued from frontpage
The issue came before the board at its November meeting when the committee on professional liability insurance presented a recommendation not to pursue mandatory malpractice insurance -- and met with resistance from some members.
At last month's meeting, former board member Kevin Culhane, a Sacramento trial lawyer, gave a history of the malpractice coverage situation in California. Culhane has been involved with malpractice issues for more than 20 years.
Based on the distinctive character of the California legal community, said Culhane, many actuarial problems exist. He said that years ago there was an attempt to structure a program similar to Oregon's mandatory coverage program, but it was virtually impossible to duplicate in this state.
Board member John Collins suggested four solutions to be explored:
The area of medical malpractice also received some attention from the board after a resolution was introduced to support AB 250, authored by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica).
Kuehl's bill creates six exemptions to the 1975 Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act's (MICRA) $250,000 limit on physician liability for non-economic damages.
Public member John Morris questioned the wisdom of voting on the matter, especially in light of a discussion with the bar's lobbyist, Mel Assagai, who indicated at a previous board committee meeting that any board action might affect the bar's legislative program. "What do we do when the governor wants us to support his tort reform package?" asked Morris. Some members agreed, saying that although they supported the bill, it did not seem appropriate for the board to become involved.
"As long as this is an organization that people must belong to, I feel uncomfortable taking a position members might disagree with," said Jo Ellen Allen, a public member of the board from Los Angeles.
Supporters, however, agreed with the bill in principle, saying it was a consumer protection issue and the board should take a position.
"MICRA is not responsible for savings [in health care costs]," said board member Jeff Tidus of Los Angeles, "but it is responsible for heartache. It was a bad law when it was passed and it is a bad law now."