The issue of damage caps is an area of ongoing litigation in Missouri. A new case has just been handed down by the Missouri Supreme Court which provides some clarity on the issue of statutory damage caps on non-economic damages but fails to fully resolve the issue. Currently, Missouri has a $406,800.00 cap on non-economic damages in medical negligence cases not resulting in death and a $711,900.00 cap non-economic damages in medical negligence cases resulting in death. Mo. Rev. Stat. §538.210 (2015). The cap increases annually at a constant rate of 1.7%. The above numbers are current as of January 1, 2016 but will increase again on January 1, 2017. Read more
Posts from the ‘Medical Malpractice’ Category
When evaluating a claim for medical malpractice, the potential exposure is a key consideration for both health care provider and defense counsel. Until recently, plaintiffs could receive unlimited non-economic damages awards in medical malpractice lawsuits for personal injury filed in Missouri. See, Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers, 376 S.W.3d 633 (Mo. banc 2012). Such unlimited damages may afford plaintiff a windfall, expose health care providers to unpredictable jury verdicts, and increase the overall cost of health care. However, the Missouri legislature has recently reinstated damage caps with Senate Bill No. 239, which was signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon on May 7, 2015, and takes effect on August 28, 2015. Read more
Does the Cap on Non-Economic Damages for Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Actions Still Apply After Watts v. Cox, et al.?
One of the most monumental decisions in the medical malpractice world in Missouri was handed down by the Missouri Supreme Court in Deborah Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers, et al., 376 S.W.3d 633 (Mo. 2012), on July 31, 2012. As most in the medical malpractice community are aware, the case held the cap on non-economic damages of $350,000 for medical malpractice actions found in Mo. Rev. Stat. § 538.210 unconstitutional. This cap had been in place and upheld by Missouri Courts since August 28, 2005. Given that the Watts case only addressed the constitutionality of the cap on non-economic damages in a personal injury case, the Court’s decision left the medical malpractice legal community attempting to determine whether or not the decision affected wrongful death cases. Given the language found in the Watts opinion focusing only on common law actions, and given the rationale used in upholding the cap in wrongful death cases decided prior to Watts, it is the opinion of this author that the wrongful death non-economic damages cap remains intact. Read more