Victims Of Medical Injustice Announce Initiative To Adjust 38 Year Old Damage Cap If Sacramento and Governor Do Not Act

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Sacramento, CA — Family members and victims of medical negligence announced a patient safety ballot measure in front of the state Capitol that will lift a nearly 38-year-old cap on victims’ recovery signed by Governor Brown in 1975.   The “38 is too late” group challenged the Legislature to deal with the problem or said it would let voters decide the fairness of the law that had not been updated in 38 years.

Danville resident and NetZero pioneer Bob Pack, who lost his young children in an accident after a drug abuser obtained narcotics from reckless prescribing, spoke about how the value of his children’s lives were limited to $250,000 by the cap.  Pack also created the CURES database after the tragedy to keep track of dangerous prescribers.

“Since 1975 the value of everything has gone up, except the value of a child’s life,” said Bob Pack. “A cap that doesn’t adjust for inflation was flawed from the day it was signed. 38 years is too late not to do something about it."

The “38 Is Too Late” group unveiled a website today — — that tells the stories of the victims of the unjust law and rallies the public’s support for changing the almost 38 year-old cap.


Video clips from the press conference are available at the links below:

Bob Pack

Jamie Court

Tami & Tim Smik

Eric Andrist

Robert Downey

Kimber & Robyn Frankels

Kathy Olsen

Linda & Doug Wilkinson

Ryan Jeffers

Q&A Session

“This law is so old Jerry Brown signed it in his first term when legislators made $22,000 per year,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “Lawmakers salaries have gone up more than 400% since then, but the value of the lives of victims of medical negligence hasn’t gone up at all. Voters will have to deal with this inequity if the legislature refuses."

Joining Pack were others with heart-rending stories of medical abuse and denial of justice from Sacramento, San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno and the Bay Area. Those families present to tell their stories and demand the 
Legislature act, or face a citizen initiative, included:

Tim and Tammy Smick, of Downey, whose twenty year-old son Alex lost his life after failures by three doctors that ended in a lethal overdose administered by medical providers at the very facility Alex had entered to seek treatment for prescription drug dependence.

Kathy Olsen of Chula Vista and her twenty-one year old son, Steven, who became blind and developmentally disabled at age two after a hiking accident in the woods. Steven fell on a stick, causing an abscess which the doctors missed after refusing to do a simple CAT scan.

Robert Downey, who lives with his wife Cheri and children in Rancho Cordova, who had his arms and legs amputated after medical providers failed to diagnosis a treatable infection.

Robyn Frankel, of Menlo Park, who suffered a stroke and was left a paraplegic after an unnecessary and invasive procedure for migraines caused a stroke.

Doug and Linda Wilkinson of Fresno, whose daughter Brittany was living with and managing a rare medical condition but died horrifically in the hospital when staff failed to notice that pressure was building on her brain.

Ryan Jeffers of Sacramento and his young daughter Malyia, who lost her lower legs, her left hand and part of her right after emergency room doctors failed to see her and a treatable infection was allowed to spread.

Eric Andrist of Los Angeles, who lost his developmentally disabled sister Cali after she was misdiagnosed, given a dangerous mix of medications, and ultimately died of cardiac arrest. Medical staff wrongly thought she had a do not resuscitate order and intervened too late to save her life.

The ballot measure the groups announced will also deal with other patient safety reforms, including the CURES prescribing database and doctor oversight by the Medical Board of California.

Reforms being considered in “The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act” include:

  • Medical Board Reform — Overhauling with a public member majority, increasing transparency by putting more information on line (such as pending complaints, all verdicts and settlements, full disciplinary history), transferring investigative powers to the Department of Justice, and depoliticizing licensure decisions by ending the Boards’ role in license removal (like the State Bar of California for attorneys).
  • MICRA — Repealing the cap on damages so it is a case by case decision by juries.
  • Mandatory Drug Testing — Mandatory drug and alcohol testing for doctors, just as bus drivers and Walmart workers already undergo.  
  • CURES database — Full funding, mandatory data-mining for dangerous prescribers, mandatory enrollment by doctors, regular reporting to the AG, mandatory field investigations by the AG of doctors who are outliers in terms of prescribing habits, and mandatory curbs on prescribing privileges for doctors involved in overdose deaths.

The ballot initiative is being drafted by The Troy and Alana Pack Foundation and Consumer Watchdog. The Center for Public Interest Law has not endorsed the ballot measure and is not campaigning for the ballot measure.

Consumer Watchdog is helping organize the ballot measure campaign, and has already qualified one initiative for the November 2014 ballot – an initiative to require health insurance companies to justify their rate hikes and get permission before raising rates as auto and home insurance companies must. The group beat a $17 million campaign by the insurance industry for a ballot measure to deregulate auto insurance, Prop 33 in 2012. Consumer Watchdog’s founder wrote insurance reform Proposition 103, which was approved by the voters in 1988 and has since saved drivers $62 billion, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

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Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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