An attempt by the Missouri legislature to reinstate the state's cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits took a hit earlier this week in the state Senate. Despite fevered attempts, with some legislators working well into the night, the measure never made it to a full vote on the Senate floor.
The sponsor of the new legislation, Senator Dan Brown, told reporters that he would continue working on getting the measure before a full vote of the Senate body before the end of this year's legislative session. Senator Brown is under the gun given that the legislature only has until May 17th to pass new measures before a mandatory adjournment.
Senator Brown said the negotiations broke down over the precise dollar amount that would be involved. The measure was meant to reimpose a limit on noneconomic damages in med mal cases, which means limiting the amount of money injured patients can collect for pain and suffering. The previous med mal cap was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court last year, much to the chagrin of Republican legislators who believe the cap is crucial to curb what they view as "frivolous lawsuits" (a ridiculous allegation). The state Supreme Court decided that the law, capping damages at $350,000, violated the state's constitutional right to a jury trial given that the caps act as a restriction on a jury's fact-finding role.
The newly proposed measure, HB 112, seeks to do an end run around the Supreme Court by eliminating a common-law right to file lawsuits over health care services. The new right would be statutory instead, and would include a damage cap of $350,000. The measure was approved earlier last month in a 93-62 vote in the House.
Supporters of the measure, including Senator Brown, argue that the legislation is necessary to help reign in malpractice insurance premiums and to ensure that doctors continue to want to practice in the state. Opponents argue that a cap is not only unconstitutional, but is designed to protect wrongdoers at the expense of those who have suffered horrific and possibly irreparable harm. In some cases, larger damage awards are necessary, painful measures that are meant to send a strong message to the perpetrators and others who might be inclined to cut similar corners in the future. By implementing a damage cap doctors and healthcare providers know that there is a ceiling to how much money they can be forced to pay out for pain and suffering.
Medical negligence lawyer Ben Sansone is located in St Louis (Clayton) Missouri and handles medical negligence cases across all of Missouri and Illinois. For a free consultation please call (314) 863-0500 or contact us online.
Source: "Medical Malpractice Cap Bill Stuck In Missouri Senate," by Marshall Griffin, published at KCUR.org.
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