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The effect of Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-581.15 on the remedy available to a plaintiff is not violative of any substantive due process right. A party has no fundamental right to a particular remedy or a full recovery in tort. A statutory limitation on recovery is simply an economic regulation, which is entitled to wide judicial deference. Because Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-581.15 is such a regulation and infringes upon no fundamental right, the section must be upheld if it is reasonably related to a legitimate governmental purpose.
Co-committees of an injured patient's estate brought a medical malpractice action against a hospital and the estate of a physician, after the patient suffered brain damage and paralysis following surgery. A jury returned a $ 2,750,000 verdict for the co-committees. The trial court reduced the jury award to $ 750,000 as required by Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-581.15 (1977 Repl. Vol.), which limited damage awards in medical malpractice actions to that amount. The co-committees appealed and attacked the validity of § 8.01-581.15 on various constitutional and statutory grounds.
Did § 8.01-581.15 violate either the Federal or Virginia Constitution?
The court affirmed the decision of the lower court and held that § 8.01-581.15 did not violate the due process, jury trial, or equal protection guarantees of the Virginia or United States Constitutions. The court held that § 8.01-581.15 did not violate the separation of powers doctrine and prohibitions against special legislation under the Virginia Constitution. The court also held that the co-committees could not recover the full amount of the jury award against the hospital under Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-38 (1984), and that Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-581.15 prevailed over Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-38.