A coalition of Central Valley racial justice groups announced their endorsement of the Fairness for Injured Patients Act, the 2022 ballot initiative to update California’s discriminatory cap on compensation for patients harmed by medical negligence.
The groups — Change 4 Shawn, Black Lives Matter Manteca, Central Valley BIPOC Coalition, Power to Persist, Time to Act, and Turlock BLM Movement — wrote an open letter calling on Governor Newsom and state legislative leaders to stand up for Black families by committing to work to update a law that has harmed patients of color for decades.
“Black lives are not valued in the medical system. We receive less care, we are not believed when we come in with pain or problems, and we are written off when we could be cured. This unequal treatment is made worse by California’s law limiting the rights of injured patients that keeps people of color and working-class people out of the courts and stands in the way of accountability and reform,” wrote the groups. “We write to ask for your commitment to updating that law to ensure equal justice for black families harmed by medical negligence.”
The Fairness Act will adjust the 45-year-old compensation cap for inflation, create an exception to the cap in cases of catastrophic injury or wrongful death, and inform juries of the existence of the cap.
The groups’ endorsement comes at the beginning of Black history month. On Saturday, February 13th, they will host a march for justice in Manteca, CA, and honor Shawn Washington II, a young Black man who lost his life to medical negligence in 2019.
The letter details how Shawn “died due to medical negligence after waiting 8 hours for medical care in a California Kaiser Emergency Room. Despite repeatedly telling his doctors ‘I can’t breathe,’ Shawn died of an undiagnosed lung hemorrhage caused by a delayed diagnosis of sepsis. …This otherwise healthy 29-year-old black male was a son, grandson, and expectant father who died a sudden but preventable death and there needs to be accountability and change.”
Shawn’s family sought accountability in the courts, only to learn of the outdated cap that makes it nearly impossible for families like theirs to get justice. Learn more about Shawn Washington’s story here. Or in this KGO-7 ABC TV story.
Shawn’s sister, Sharon Washington-Barnes, will lead the march to each of the facilities where he was neglected preceding his death.
“This march is to showcase that we will not rest until there is acknowledgment of the neglect that Shawn faced at three Manteca medical facilities,” said Sharon Washington-Barnes. “We want people to know that we are still here, fighting for justice, fighting for change, fighting for a better future in Shawn’s name and legacy.”
The 1975 law capped compensation in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000 and has never been indexed for inflation. It is an example of the systemic bias that perpetuates poor health care outcomes in California’s communities of color that experience lower-quality health care, suffer more preventable medical errors, and are denied answers and accountability when they are harmed. Learn more.
The Chair of the Fairness Act campaign is Charles Johnson, who lost his wife Kira after the successful birth of their second son. Her bladder was lacerated during a C-section and her symptoms negligently ignored for 10 hours while she bled out. Kira was one of the too many Black women who are three to four times more likely to die from childbirth complications or pregnancy in California than white women.