- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RICHMOND — Lawmakers lifted the lid on Virginia’s medical malpractice cap Wednesday night, allowing it to rise by $50,000 annually until it reaches $3 million in 2032.

The bill grew out of a compromise between trial lawyers and medical professionals, who agreed it would give the healthcare community enough stability while gradually raising award limits. The last time legislators raised the medical-malpractice cap was in 1999, when it was increased from $1 million to $1.5 million and then gradually increased to $2 million, where it now sits.

Governor Robert F. McDonnell, who had opposed the bill during his gubernatorial campaign, included it as one of the four bills he vetoed out of this year’s General Assembly session. Of the four, it was the only one lawmakers voted to override — by 30 to 10 in the Senate and 93 to 7 in the House.

Raising the cap was supported by Medical Society of Virginia, the Virginia Healthcare Association and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.

Sen. Ralph Northam, Norfolk Democrat who is also a pediatric neurologist, said raising the cap will provide Virginia doctors the assurance they need and will help to attract more healthcare professionals to the state.

“This is an issue of certainty and that certainty regards malpractice,” Mr. Northam said. “If we have the certainty which we will have with this bill, we’ll know what to expect for the next 20 years.”

Legislators failed to override Mr. McDonnell’s other three vetoes, which nixed a bill requiring schools to provide 150 minutes of physical education and two others that would have increased fees for environmental violations.

Lawmakers are meeting in Richmond this week for a special session to consider Mr. McDonnell’s vetos and amendments and to approve new House and Senate districts.