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3/8/2016 7:06:00 PM
Indiana lawmakers agree to increase medical malpractice caps by $400,000

Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Medical patients who are injured or killed by their doctors may soon be eligible for larger malpractice awards.

For the first time in 17 years, Indiana lawmakers have agreed to increase the maximum malpractice payout to $1.65 million for incidents occurring after June 30, 2017. The current malpractice cap is $1.25 million.

Senate Enrolled Act 28, which passed the Republican-controlled Senate 49-0 Tuesday and previously was approved by the GOP-led House 90-5, further raises the top malpractice award to $1.8 million on July 1, 2019.

Lawmakers said the increase was needed to prevent state courts from setting a higher cap due to the effects of inflation diminishing the maximum award value.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates the increase will have little effect on doctor malpractice insurance premiums.

In fact, most malpractice awards are paid by the Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund, which is financed by surcharges on the state's doctors and other health care professionals.

The fund paid nearly $65 million earlier this decade to settle some 300 malpractice claims against notorious Merrillville sinus doctor Mark Weinberger.

"Indiana was the first state in the nation in regard to the best medical malpractice department and will remain such after this bill," said state Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, the sponsor.

The measure, which now goes to Republican Gov. Mike Pence for his signature or veto, was co-sponsored by state Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; and Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes.

Other measures advancing to the governor, following approval by the House and Senate, include:

Waste districtsSenate Enrolled Act 366 authorizes counties to eliminate their solid waste management districts after July 1, 2017, if the county commissioners and council both agree to do so. The plan was sponsored by state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell; and state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville.

RapeHouse Enrolled Act 1105, sponsored by state Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point, state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, Tallian and Charbonneau, authorizes a rape prosecution after the five-year statute of limitations has expired if the state discovers new DNA evidence, finds a previously unknown recording of the crime or the perpetrator confesses.

School safetySenate Enrolled Act 147, sponsored by several Region lawmakers, requires the Indiana Department of Homeland Security establish by July 1, 2017, minimum standards and "best practices" for school building protections against natural and man-made disasters.

Tax sale noticeSenate Enrolled Act 355, sponsored by Niemeyer, Randolph, Slager and state Rep. Bill Fine, R-Munster, allows counties to omit property descriptions from subsequent tax sale advertisements, if a property doesn't sell the first time its full ad is run and the description is available on a county website.

Related Stories:
• EDITORIAL: Bill allowing trashing of waste districts deserves consideration
• Solid waste districts could come to an end under bill now on Pence's desk

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