Missouri Supreme Court Strikes Caps On Medical Malpractice Damages
Earlier this week the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a $350,000 limit on jury awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases. The case before the court stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Deborah Watts of Springfield, Missouri, whose son, Naython, was born with catastrophic brain injuries at Cox South Hospital in 2006 after a delay in receiving an emergency C-section.
A Greene County jury last year awarded Watts nearly $5 million, which was then reduced under the cap law. However, the Supreme Court held limits on awards to be unconstitutional, and found that the Missouri constitution established “the right to a trial by jury” and that “include[s] a jury’s deciding how much the damages would be.”
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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, “The Missouri Supreme Court struck down on Tuesday a $350,000 limit on jury awards for ‘pain and suffering’ in medical malpractice cases, saying the law violates a patient’s right to a jury trial.” The Supreme Court held in a 4-3 decision that the cap “infringes on the jury’s constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party.”
The Springfield (MO) News-Leader reports that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) “said his office is continuing to review Tuesday’s Missouri Supreme Court ruling striking down damage caps for medical malpractice suits.” The governor did not indicate whether he was in favor of restoring the caps. Nixon is quoted as saying, “The bottom line is we want a system where doctors can focus on providing quality care for their patients and the rights of patients are protected.”
The AP adds that “the ruling was praised by plaintiffs’ attorneys, who had opposed the 2005 law while warning that it could leave injured, ill and disabled residents without enough money to compensate them for their dramatically altered lifestyles.” Kansas City attorney Tim Dollar, president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, is quoted as saying, “Everyone who believes in the constitution should be thrilled with this decision.”
Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. thanks the American Association of Justice (AAJ) Daily News Brief for alerting them to these news articles.