Between the Lines

A Discussion of Case Law and Statutory Law Affecting Commercial Lines of Insurance


The $80,000 Question for Hospitals Under the New Massachusetts Health Reform Act.

The $80k Question

Under Massachusetts law, G.L. c. 231, § 85K (the charitable cap), recoveries on tort claims against charitable corporations, including hospital organized as 501(c)(3)
hospitals organized as corporations, long have been subject to a cap of $20,000.  The Health Payment Reform Act, which took effect last month, increases the cap to $100,000 for “medical malpractice claims against a nonprofit organization providing health care.”  To take advantage of the higher cap, plaintiffs’ attorneys no doubt will try to recast ordinary negligence claims against hospitals – such as claims for negligent hiring, supervision and retention and premises liability/negligent security claims – as medical malpractice claims.  Plaintiffs on occasion have tried the reverse – characterizing claims against health care providers as claims for ordinary negligence – in order to avoid limitations periods, statutes of repose, or other procedural requirements.  This case law, which includes Chace v. Curran, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 258 (2008), Koltin v. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 62 Mass. App. Ct. 920 (2004) (rescript), Santos v. Kim, 429 Mass. 130 (1999) and Leininger v. Franklin Medical Center, 404 Mass. 245 (1989), suggests that regardless of how plaintiff characterizes the claim, the key to whether the applicable cap will be $20,000 or $100,000 is whether the core of the claim alleges improper medical treatment.

Steven Schreckinger – (617) 621-6537
Anne Robbins – (617) 621-6553

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Steve Schreckinger

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