Several changes to how Iowan’s seek relief in the courts passed the Legislature this session. Major reforms were made to medical malpractice suits, suing for defects in property, and for those seeking relief from asbestos related illnesses.

One bill approved will impose caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases of $250,000. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering and the loss of companionship to loved ones because of an injury or death. The bill also imposes new requirements before someone can serve as an expert against a doctor facing a medical malpractice case.

In another bill, Senate File 413 makes changes to when a lawsuit can be brought for improvements to real property, such as land and buildings. Generally speaking, time limits are placed on when injuries caused by improvements to real property that are called statutes of repose. Unlike similar statutes of limitations that apply to other injuries not linked to property, statutes of repose begin when the improvement is completed, not from when the injury occurs. SF 413 will reduce the current 15 year limit to 8 years for many types of commercial buildings and 10 years for residential construction.

Governor Branstad has also signed into law a bill that will make it more difficult for survivors of asbestos related diseases to sue companies that caused their illnesses. Senate File 376 prioritizes claims for people that are sicker because of asbestos complications over people with nonmalignant conditions, requires victims to provide detailed medical reports and diagnosis to prove the person is sick enough to seek relief, provides liability protection to certain companies for asbestos claims, and requires disclosure of all potential claims before a suit may continue. The bill will cause cases to take longer and could deny certain victims suffering from asbestos diseases any recovery.