Missouri Supreme Court Uncaps Damages for Med. Mal Cases

While many states have recently adopted various tort reform measures in an attempt to attract practicing physicians and cut health care costs, not all states are headed in that direction. Missouri’s high court has decreed that it will step off the beaten and, thus far unproven, “tort reform” path.  In a 4-3 decision, the Missouri Supreme Court squashed a legislative effort to restrict liability lawsuits, by striking down a 2005 state law that capped noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $350,000.  Although the number of licensed physicians in Missouri has, in fact, increased since former Gov. Matt Blunt’s 2005 tort reform law, the court found that the law’s intent was unconstitutional.  “Any limit on damages that restricts the jury’s fact-finding role violates the constitutional right to trial by jury,” states the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Teitelman.

While the issue is highly politically charged, the court nevertheless recognized that the law infringed upon the lawful province of the jury to consider evidence and determine the appropriate damages. Statistically, the numbers didn’t support the stated purpose of the law either:  prior to the “tort reform” law, the number of medical malpractice claims being filed in Missouri had already been on the decline for years. This trend has been identified in states throughout the country. In truth, it is difficult to argue what impact, if any, tort reform legislation has had on medical care or doctor availability anywhere in the country, when the nationwide trend was clearly in the direction of fewer lawsuits well before state legislatures became active on the subject.

For more information on this topic, visit: https://www.therepublic.com/view/story/1ebde74545f04aa1a3f6e8ddb982a154/MO–Lawsuit-Limits