Missouri Medical Malpractice - Constitutionality of Damage Caps to be Heard by Missouri Supreme Court
In 2005 Missouri tort reform was passed and its main thrust was to eliminate personal injury medical malpractice cases in Missouri. One of the primary mechanisms to eliminate these cases was to institute non-economic damage caps of $350,000, which cannot be adjusted for inflation. The old caps were adjusted for inflation, as anyone with a basic understanding of economics knows the value of the dollar changes over the years. With low limits Plaintiff lawyers cannot pursue these cases as their upside is low because they take cases on contingency basis and front all costs, while the defense lawyers are well funded by Missouri medical malpractice insurers and can afford to fight every single case and spend thousands of hours.
There are many arguments in favor of the caps, mainly a hatred for trial lawyers based on years of tort reform propaganda. However, a simple fact, trial lawyers are the only group in the United States that represent and fight to protect the rights of the future injured. People that have never experienced medical malpractice are not concerned about those rights, as people do not foresee themselves as ever having that problem and buy into the tort reform propaganda of doctors fleeing, insurance rates increasing, and trial lawyers bringing merit-less cases. If a personal injury lawyer brings a merit-less case they will soon be out of business, as those cases are thrown out of court or lose in front of a jury, costing the personal injury lawyer tens of thousands in out of pocket expenses and 1000s of hours of lost time they will not be compensated for. Any good persoanl injury lawyer only pursues legitimate cases.
I cannot tell you the countless times people, that have generally though of themselves as for tort reform, that experience death or serious injury in their family as a result of medical negligence, very quickly change their tune, realize the inequities of the current system in Missouri, and get very angry. The life of a spouse, child, or parent is now capped at $350,000, that is what Missouri legislature says your family member's life is worth. On top of that, if the Missouri medical malpractice insurance company is looking at a worst case scenario of $350,000, they will fight legitimate cases tooth and nail, as the risk of financial loss has now just flown out the window. As all Missouri medical malpractice insurance policies are at least $500,000 but the vast majority are 1 Million or more per Missouri law.
Finally, 4 years after the institution of the caps, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear a case challenging the constitutionality of those caps. See: Post dispatch Article of 12/6/2009 by Tony Messenger - "Limits to jury damage awards to be debated by Missouri Supreme Court". In his article the arguments over the caps and sample cases are laid out in detail. I refer you to this article as I could write dozens of pages discussing this Missouri personal injury topic.