I recently wrote about the fact that the Missouri Supreme Court was reviewing the cap on so-called “non-economic” damages as a result of medical malpractice. Enacted in 2005 as part of a series of tort reform efforts, this cap of $350,000 did not do justice to those harmed by medical malpractice; the costs of continuing care for those injured by medical negligence can reach far beyond the cap's maximum, often even into the millions of dollars for conditions like Cerebral Palsy that require life-long care. Fortunately, that cap is a thing of the past.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Missouri Supreme Court determined last week that the cap "infringes on the jury's constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party." As an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, I could not agree more; though some argue that the cap was important to reducing costs, in reality it has not done much to that effect according to the Missouri Foundation for Health study cited by the Post-Dispatch. Given that only approximately one percent of medical malpractice cases reach trial and result in a victory for the plaintiff, all that the cap did was artificially withhold compensation that victims of medical negligence were entitled to.
Though some state legislators are currently talking about calling a special session in Jefferson City to put a Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot to reinstate the cap, this is a clear victory for patients across Missouri as they can finally receive the full amount of compensation that a jury of their peers determined they should receive to compensate for the harms caused by medical malpractice. The pain and suffering caused by a healthcare provider's negligence can last long beyond actions to hold the negligent party accountable, and removing the cap on damages ensures that victims of medical negligence are able to afford the continuing care they might require as a result of medical malpractice.