New Mexico Caps Medical Malpractice Claims at $1 million

The Medical Malpractice Act in New Mexico has been amended to cap medical malpractice claims at $1 million for independent healthcare providers and independently-owned healthcare facilities.

New Mexico State Capitol

ByZach Barreto

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Updated on May 9, 2023

New Mexico State Capitol

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the Medical Malpractice Act, which caps medical malpractice claims at $ 1 million for independent physicians and independently-owned health care facilities.

S.B. 523

On March 14th, 2023, S.B. 523 was introduced to the Senate Tax Committee. The bill amended the Medical Malpractice Act by lowering the cap of damages from $5 million to $1 million for independent healthcare providers and independently-owned healthcare facilities, like ambulatory surgical centers, urgent care facilities, and independently-owned emergency rooms. The bill carves out an exception for punitive damages, which are not capped under the statute.

S.B. 523, which was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth (D), Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca (R), House Speaker Javier Martinez (D), and Minority Floor Leader Ryan Lane (R), passed unanimously through the Senate Tax Committee before being introduced to the Senate floor on March 15th.

Sen. Joe Cervantes (D) of Las Cruces opined that the bill was deliberately sent to the Senate Tax Committee, rather than the Senate Judiciary Committee, so that it could easily pass without close scrutiny. Sen. Cervantes believed that the bill, as written, created ambiguities, inconsistencies, and problems, which would require further amendments in the future. Despite such concerns, after a two-hour debate, the measure passed on the Senate floor by a 40-2 vote. The bill was then introduced to the House of Representatives, before arriving on Gov. Lujan Grisham’s desk for signing.

On April 7, Governor Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law, which will take effect in 2024.

Advocacy for the Amendment

Changes were last made to New Mexico’s Medical Malpractice Act in 2021. At which time, the cap for damages was set at $5 million for both independent clinics and hospitals. However, independent healthcare providers and independently-owned healthcare facilities complained that the cap was far too high. According to the medical community and other advocates for lowering the cap on damages for medical malpractice claims, the high cap made it difficult to obtain affordable malpractice insurance, which scared physicians away from establishing their practices in New Mexico.

Gov. Lujan Grisham, who helped broker the bill, opined that amending the Medical Malpractice Act would benefit the patients who would have access to more healthcare providers, and also the physicians who can now afford malpractice insurance in New Mexico. Sponsors of the bill believe that S.B. 523 strikes the right balance by being fair to both patients and physicians.

The Impact of the New Law

S.B. 523 drastically cuts the cap on damages for medical malpractice settlements. Proponents of the law believe that lowering the cap will enable physicians and independently-owned healthcare facilities to afford malpractice insurance, which will make New Mexico a friendlier state to the medical community.

Prior to the amendment, many local healthcare providers reported being forced to close their clinics due to high medical malpractice settlements and expensive malpractice insurance. Such closures created a fear that access to healthcare across the state would be limited. According to the proponents, a climate where physicians and clinicians are more widely available will increase access to quality care for patients.

About the author

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto is a distinguished professional in the legal industry, currently serving as the Senior Vice President of Research at the Expert Institute. With a deep understanding of a broad range of legal practice areas, Zach's expertise encompasses personal injury, medical malpractice, mass torts, defective products, and many other sectors. His skills are particularly evident in handling complex litigation matters, including high-profile cases like the Opioids litigation, NFL Concussion Litigation, California Wildfires, 3M earplugs, Elmiron, Transvaginal Mesh, NFL Concussion Litigation, Roundup, Camp Lejeune, Hernia Mesh, IVC filters, Paraquat, Paragard, Talcum Powder, Zantac, and many others.

Under his leadership, the Expert Institute’s research team has expanded impressively from a single member to a robust team of 100 professionals over the last decade. This growth reflects his ability to navigate the intricate and demanding landscape of legal research and expert recruitment effectively. Zach has been instrumental in working on nationally significant litigation matters, including cases involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, toxic chemical exposure, and wrongful death, among others.

At the Expert Institute, Zach is responsible for managing all aspects of the research department and developing strategic institutional relationships. He plays a key role in equipping attorneys for success through expert consulting, case management, strategic research, and expert due diligence provided by the Institute’s cloud-based legal services platform, Expert iQ.

Educationally, Zach holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and European History from Vanderbilt University.

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