2021 New Mexico Statutes
Chapter 41 - Torts
Article 5 - Medical Malpractice Act
Section 41-5-6 - Limitation of recovery.

Universal Citation: NM Stat § 41-5-6 (2021)

A. Except for punitive damages and medical care and related benefits, the aggregate dollar amount recoverable by all persons for or arising from any injury or death to a patient as a result of malpractice shall not exceed six hundred thousand dollars ($600,000) per occurrence. In jury cases, the jury shall not be given any instructions dealing with this limitation.

B. The value of accrued medical care and related benefits shall not be subject to the six hundred thousand dollar ($600,000) limitation.

C. Monetary damages shall not be awarded for future medical expenses in malpractice claims.

D. A health care provider's personal liability is limited to two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) for monetary damages and medical care and related benefits as provided in Section 41-5-7 NMSA 1978. Any amount due from a judgment or settlement in excess of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) shall be paid from the patient's compensation fund, as provided in Section 41-5-25 NMSA 1978.

E. For the purposes of Subsections A and B of this section, the six hundred thousand dollar ($600,000) aggregate amount recoverable by all persons for or arising from any injury or death to a patient as a result of malpractice shall apply only to malpractice occurring on or after April 1, 1995.

History: 1978 Comp., § 41-5-6, enacted by Laws 1992, ch. 33, § 4.

ANNOTATIONS

Repeals and reenactments. — Laws 1992, ch. 33, § 4 repealed former 41-5-6 NMSA 1978, as enacted by Laws 1992, ch. 33, § 3, and enacted a new section, effective April 1, 1995.

Laws 1991, ch. 264, § 4 repealed former 41-5-6 NMSA 1978, as amended by Laws 1991, ch. 264, § 3, and enacted a new 41-5-6 NMSA 1978, effective July 1, 1992.

Laws 1992, ch. 33, § 3 repealed former 41-5-6 NMSA 1978, as amended by Laws 1991, ch. 264, § 3, and as enacted by Laws 1991, ch. 264, § 4, and enacted a former section, effective April 1, 1992.

Applicability. — Laws 1992, ch. 33, § 17, effective March 6, 1992, made the provisions of the act applicable only to occurrences arising on and after April 1, 1994.

The constitutional right to trial by jury applies in cases brought under the Medical Malpractice Act. — Because causes of action brought under the Medical Malpractice Act (MMA), NMSA 1978, §§ 41-5-1 to -29, can be more generally described as causes of action in common-law medical negligence, and claims of common-law medical negligence were triable to a jury at the time the New Mexico Constitution was adopted and took effect, the constitutional right to trial by jury attaches to causes of action brought under the MMA. Siebert v. Okun, 2021-NMSC-016, overruling in part Salopek v. Friedman, 2013-NMCA-087, 308 P.3d 139.

The Medical Malpractice Act's nonmedical, nonpunitive damages cap does not invade the province of the jury. — The MMA nonmedical, nonpunitive damages cap gives legal consequence to the jury's finding on damages and does not violate a plaintiff's right to a jury trial under NM Const., Art. II, Sec. 12, because the right to trial by jury is satisfied when evidence is presented to a jury, which then deliberates and returns a verdict based on its factual findings. The legal consequence of that verdict is a matter of law, which the legislature has the authority to shape. Siebert v. Okun, 2021-NMSC-016, overruling in part Salopek v. Friedman, 2013-NMCA-087, 308 P.3d 139.

Where plaintiff successfully sued defendants for medical malpractice under the Medical Malpractice Act (MMA), NMSA 1978, §§ 41-5-1 to -29, and where, following the return of the jury's verdict, defendants moved to reduce the jury award of $2,600,000 to conform with the $600,000 cap on all nonmedical and nonpunitive damages in MMA actions, and where the district court denied defendants' motion, concluding that the MMA nonmedical, nonpunitive damages cap infringed the state constitutional right to a trial by jury, the district court erred in denying defendants' motion, because the MMA nonmedical, nonpunitive damages cap merely gives legal consequence to the jury's finding on damages and does not violate a plaintiff's right to a jury trial under NM Const., Art. II, Sec. 12. Siebert v. Okun, 2021-NMSC-016, overruling in part Salopek v. Friedman, 2013-NMCA-087, 308 P.3d 139.

Cap on medical malpractice damages is constitutional. — The cap on medical malpractice damages does not violate the right to trial by jury under Article II, Section 12 of the New Mexico Constitution, the separation of powers clause in Article III, Section 1 of the New Mexico Constitution, the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution, or the due process clause of the United States Constitution. Salopek v. Friedman, 2013-NMCA-087.

Limits of recovery. — This section is not arbritrary and capricous and is rationally related to legislative goal of ensuring a source of recovery for victims of medical malpractice and curbing runaway medical costs, relying in part on Trujillo v. City of Albuquerque, 1998-NMSC-031, 125 N.M. 721, 965 P.2d 305; Fed. Express Corp. v. United States, 228 F. Supp 2d 1267 (D.N.M. 2002).

Federal hospital. — Although not a "qualified health care provider" under 41-5-5 NMSA 1978, the liability of a federal hospital, operating in New Mexico, is subject to the $600,000 cap in Subsection A, but not the $200,000 cap in Subsection D, which assumes that the amount of damages in excess of $ 200,000 would be paid by the compensation fund into which the federal government did not contribute. Haceesa v. United States, 309 F.3d 722 (10th Cir. 2002).

Applicability. — Where it was held that tribal law controlled in a malpractice action against the United States, the New Mexico medical malpractice cap did not apply. Cheromiah v. United States, 55 F. Supp. 2d 1295 (D.N.M. 1999).

Law reviews. — For article, "Medical Malpractice Legislation in New Mexico," see 7 N.M.L. Rev. 5 (1976-77).

Am. Jur. 2d, A.L.R. and C.J.S. references. — 22 Am. Jur. 2d Damages §§ 288, 289; 61 Am. Jur. 2d Physicians, Surgeons, and Other Healers §§ 367 to 371.

Contributory negligence or assumption of risk as defense in action against physician or surgeon for malpractice, 50 A.L.R.2d 1043.

Liability of chiropodist, 80 A.L.R.2d 1278.

Validity and construction of state statutory provisions relating to limitations on amount of recovery in medical malpractice claim and submission of such claim to pretrial panel, 80 A.L.R.3d 583, 26 A.L.R.5th 245.

Recovery, measure and element of damages, in action against dentist for breach of contract to achieve particular result or cure, 11 A.L.R.4th 748.

Validity of statute establishing contingent fee scale for attorneys representing parties in medical malpractice actions, 12 A.L.R.4th 23.

Validity of state statute providing for periodic payment of future damages in medical malpractice action, 41 A.L.R.4th 275.

Future disease or condition, or anxiety relating thereto, as element of recovery, 50 A.L.R.4th 13.

Recovery in death action for failure to diagnose incurable disease which caused death, 64 A.L.R.4th 1232.

Medical malpractice: measure and elements of damages in actions based on loss of chance, 81 A.L.R.4th 485.

What nonpatient claims against doctors, hospitals, or similar health care providers are not subject to statutes specifically governing actions and damages for medical malpractice, 88 A.L.R.4th 358.

Liability of hospital, physician, or other medical personnel for death or injury to mother or child caused by improper diagnosis and treatment of mother relating to and during pregnancy, 7 A.L.R.5th 1.

Validity, construction, and application of state statutory provisions limiting amount of recovery in medical malpractice claims, 26 A.L.R.5th 245.

Liability of hospital or medical practitioner under doctrine of strict liability in tort, or breach of warranty, for harm caused by drug, medical instrument, or similar device used in treating patient, 65 A.L.R.5th 357.

70 C.J.S. Physicians and Surgeons §§ 124, 127.

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