Recently, the Missouri Supreme Court took on the challenge of reviewing the state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The medical cap currently sits at $350,000 in Missouri, but proponents for lifting the cap believe that is not nearly enough to properly compensate those injured due to doctor error or hospital negligence.
The case before the court stems from a 2009 lawsuit where a family was awarded almost five million dollars for injuries that occurred to her unborn child during labor and delivery, of which $1.45 million was classified as “non-economic” damages. Even though the jury felt the family should receive more, by law the court was required to reduce the non-economic damages to the capped amount of $350,000.
To date, at least nine groups have filed arguments supporting both sides of the argument. Those against the cap note that families with lower incomes cannot recover as quickly from incidences of loss of wages, loss of jobs or loss of work time. They also believe it is unconstitutional because it provides protection for health care providers from having to payout serious amounts of money – essentially allowing them to make medical mistakes that don’t carry major repercussions.
Opponents of the law also question why the medical profession receives special treatment. If the boy was injured as the result of a negligent driver, the family would have received the entire non-economic damages award.
However, there are several camps that are still in favor of a medical cap. These parties, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, argue that the cap is not unconstitutional and that the court correctly applied the law in this case.
So now medical practices are in a “wait and see” period, while families and patients watch their fate hang in the balance. For anyone who has suffered injury due to doctor error or hospital negligence, the outcome of this case will play an important role in any future lawsuit aimed at obtaining compensation.