Missouri overturns medical malpractice damage caps law

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

The Missouri Supreme Court has overturned a law that limited the ability of medical malpractice victims to recover damages from the doctors and medical facilities that caused their injuries. According to the court’s 4-3 ruling, the Missouri law violated the right to trial by jury guaranteed in the state’s constitution.

Passed in 2005, the Missouri law placed a limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits of $350,000. Non-economic damages are typically awarded to malpractice victims and/or their families for things like pain and suffering, disfigurement or mental anguish.

The case under review by the Missouri Supreme Court involved a woman named Deborah Watts, whose son was born with catastrophic brain injuries as a result of delays in her receiving a C-section during delivery. After she filed a lawsuit against the medical center where she was treated, a jury awarded her damages of $1.45 million for pain and suffering; this amount was reduced to $350,000 under the Missouri damage cap law.

The overturned Missouri law is part of a nationwide effort to limit the rights of medical malpractice victims and to wrongfully shield doctors from being held accountable for their negligence. Known by its advocates as “tort reform,” these laws do nothing to address the supposed problem of frivolous lawsuits and instead impact only those lawsuits that a judge, jury and appellate court determine have merit. As a result, these laws wrongly deprive legitimate victims like Deborah Watts of their right to seek fair compensation for the wrongdoing that they have suffered at the hands of others. They also have the effect of undermining our jury system by replacing the wisdom of twelve lay persons with the dictates of elected politicians catering to powerful special interest groups like doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and receive compensation. To receive a free legal consultation about your case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free case evaluation form.