Bill to Reinstate Cap on Noneconomic Damages in Missouri Malpractice Cases Dies
As a Missouri medical malpractice attorney, I was very pleased last year when the Missouri Supreme Court struck down our state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages are payments for injuries that aren’t strictly financial. In a medical negligence claim, an economic injury might be the extra medical bills that a medical mistake made necessary; pain would be a non-economic injury. Thus, it’s easy to see that non-economic damages are important to the plaintiffs; in cases involving injuries to children, they may be the primary source of damages. In the case that struck down the damages cap, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the cap violated Missouri citizens’ right to a jury trial that determines their damages. Now, according to the Associated Press, it seems likely that no bill will pass the Missouri Legislature this year to change that.
The damages cap was struck down in a case involving severe brain injuries to a baby boy during his birth. The jury agreed that the boy and his mother had been injured, but their financial award to the family was limited because of the state-mandated cap on non-economic damages. The high court ruled that the family had a right to have a jury decide their damages, and also struck down a payment plan set by the court. In response, some members of the Missouri legislature started working on a bill that would reinstate the cap. To avoid violating the decision, the proposed bill would have eliminated the right to sue for medical malpractice under the common law and substituted a state law that created the same right, and then reinstate the cap. Supporters said the cap was a way to control the cost of malpractice insurance for doctors.
Not surprisingly, the law was opposed by advocates for patients. As a St. Louis medical malpractice lawyer, I dislike damages caps because they take away the courts’ ability to make sure the injured person is adequately compensated. Take the example of a man who has the wrong leg amputated, and ends up with both legs amputated because doctors had to repeat the procedure with the correct one. This man would instantly be disabled, a radical life change that would prevent him from doing many things he previously enjoyed. It might prevent him from earning money and it would certainly require more medical intervention than otherwise—both of which are economic damages. But it would also certainly trigger serious non-economic damages like loss of quality of life. A damages cap takes away a jury’s ability to decide how to value that loss, and in cases with few economic damages, may deny any meaningful payment to the victim at all.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we represent clients who have suffered serious injuries because of a medical professional’s or organization’s negligence. If a doctor or other professional makes a mistake so serious that it falls below the accepted standards of care for our community, that’s medical malpractice. And if you’re a victim of medical malpractice, you have a right to pursue fair compensation for the injuries that result. In a malpractice lawsuit, you can claim damages for your financial costs and—at least for now—for the full amount of your non-financial but very real injuries, such as a permanent disability. Our southern Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have substantial experience in the complicated world of medical litigation, and we work hard to get our clients the best possible recoveries.
If you or someone you love was injured by a medical professional’s mistake, don’t wait to contact Carey, Danis & Lowe. You can reach us through our website or call 1-877-678-3400 today.
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