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CA Supreme Court Upholds MICRA Damages Cap for Inadequately Supervised Physician Assistant

For legal counsel

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On Feb. 24, the California Supreme Court issued its latest decision upholding the application of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act’s (MICRA) cap on non-economic (pain and suffering) damages in medical malpractice actions.  

In Lopez v. Ledesma, the court held that MICRA’s $250,000 cap on such damages applies to a physician assistant (PA) who has a legally enforceable agency relationship with a supervising physician and provides services within the scope of that agency relationship, even if the physician fails to adequately supervise the PA as required. In other words, as long as there is an agreement in place between the PA and the supervising physician as specified in the Physician Assistant’s Practice Act (Bus. & Prof. Code § 3500 et seq.) — and the PA is performing services within the scope of the PA’s license — the MICRA damages cap applies even if the physician provides minimal or no actual supervision. 

CHA joined with others to submit an amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting the application of the MICRA cap in this situation. The Supreme Court adopted the analysis and reasoning from this brief in several places in its opinion.