In a previous St Louis injury lawyer article I discussed the Missouri medical malpractice caps and that the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments on a case challenging the caps. See Missouri Medical Malpractice Caps Article.
Today, the Supreme Court heard the arguments from both sides regarding the constitutionality of the medical malpractice damage caps in Missouri. I was unable to be there to observe, but the initial reports are that the judges focused on whether or not the damage caps violate the principle of open access to the courts. This is a very complicated issue best explained by constitutional law scholars, however, in short, the tort reform law takes away the jury's ability to fully decide a case which in turn denies access to justice for injured victims.
Link to the Missouri Supreme Court Site allowing Access to an Audio File of the Oral Arguments and Summarizing the Case in Detail
Above link will also take you to an audio file of the oral arguments.
Brief Submitted by Plaintiffs arguing against the Damage Caps on Missouri Medical Malpractice Actions.
The legal arguments made by Plaintiffs include:
1. The Revised Cap on Non-Economic Damages Differs Significantly From the Prior Cap
2. The Legislature Lacked a Rational Basis for Enacting the Revised cap
3. There was no malpractice liability crisis in Missouri.
4. Increases in malpractice liability insurance premiums were not caused by increases in tort liability; moreover, malpractice premiums were not high by historic standards and constituted a small percentage of the costs of operating a
5. There was no evidence that doctors were fleeing Missouri, whether due to liability concerns or for any other reason
6. The supply of licensed physicians throughout Missouri has increased steadily over the last 45 years, both in net numbers and in relation to the Missouri population
7. The number of high-risk medical specialists was rising—not falling—in Missouri in 2005
8. The Legislature knew—or at least had been told—that lowering the cap on non-economic damages would not be an effective response to the perceived “crisis” and that such a cap would be quite harmful to malpractice victims.
9. The Revised Cap Violates the Missouri Constitution as follows:
i. Amended § 538.210 Violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Missouri Constitution, Article I, Section 2
ii. Amended § 538.210 Violates the Prohibition Against Special Legislation, Article III, Section 40
iii. Amended § 538.210 Violates the Due Process Clause of the Missouri Constitution, Article I, Section 10
iv. Amended § 538.210 Violates the Right to Trial By Jury, Article I, Section 22(a)
v. The Right to Trial By Jury, Properly Understood, Includes the Right to Have a Jury Determine the Amount of Damages, And that Determination Cannot Be Overridden By Legislative Decree
vi. Amended § 538.210 Violates the Separation of Powers, Article II, Section 1