Capitol Alert

Ralph Nader urges Jerry Brown to support Proposition 46

Ralph Nader speaks with his former vice presidential running mate Peter Camejo, left, during the Peace And Freedom party convention in Sacramento in 2008.
Ralph Nader speaks with his former vice presidential running mate Peter Camejo, left, during the Peace And Freedom party convention in Sacramento in 2008. Sacramento Bee file

Ralph Nader, the consumer activist who ran repeatedly for president as a third-party candidate, urged Gov. Jerry Brown Tuesday to publicly support Proposition 46, the ballot initiative that would more than quadruple the limit on medical malpractice awards.

Brown, a contemporary of the six-time presidential hopeful, has so far been silent about the Nov. 4 measure, which also seeks to mandate random drug and alcohol testing of doctors and require them to check a state prescription drug database.

In a letter to the governor, Nader said he has no doubts Brown is familiar with the effect of the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages for victims of medical malpractice. Nader, a consumer attorney, said the law “arbitrarily” approved by lawmakers and signed by Brown in 1975, ties the hands of judges and juries, the only ones who are in a position to evaluate the evidence of malpractice cases in courts.

Brown’s signature on the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), over which he has expressed some regret, has had a profound effect on other states. As Nader put, “The public argument by the commercial lobbies in those states was: ‘Well, if Jerry Brown and liberal California did it, how can we not follow?’”

The two have been friendly. Last year, Brown attended a symposium held in honor of Nader’s sister, the University of California, Berkeley, anthropologist Laura Nader. Brown arrived in time to hear Ralph Nader lecture on “Anthropology from Margaret Mead to 2012.”

In his letter, Nader pointed to a 1993 statement by Brown in which he recommended against using provisions of California’s MICRA in the so-called Clinton Health Care Plan. Brown, at the time, stated, “It has not lowered health care costs, only enriched insurers and placed negligent or incompetent physicians outside the reach of judicial accountability.”

Brown’s campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry on the letter Tuesday.

Nader said he believes Brown could have easily rectified the situation early in his third term with a large Democratic majority in the Legislature.

“For some unexplained personal reason, you fear the health industry lobby more than your desire to correct a terrible injustice to some of the most innocent and vulnerable Californians,” Nader wrote.

Proposition 46 seeks to raise the cap from $250,000 to $1.1 million and adjust it annually for future inflation, which Nader believes is just.

“Is this too much to ask of the reflective, independently minded Jerry Brown?” he wrote in closing. “Do you need to meet with some of the harmed children who have had their jury verdicts reduced to the $250,000 level and listen to their parents’ anxieties about their future care?”

Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago

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