In July of 2012 the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that limits on awards for non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits is unconstitutional. Prior to that there was a cap $350,000 that was put into place in 2005. The cap along with other malpractice reforms helped to stabilize the medical professional liability insurance market in Missouri, and encourage a number of insurance companies to offer coverage to physicians and other healthcare providers that previously would not. Lawmakers and physicians fear that removal of the cap could cause excessive jury awards that will raise the cost of healthcare and decrease access to care.
The fear of a negative impact has led the group, Show-Me Tort Reform, a tort reform coalition, to advocate for new legislation that would reinstate the cap. This year the bill being introduced is recommending a cap of $500,000. The group, along with other concerned individuals and groups, has organized a “White Coat Rally Day” in Jefferson City at the capitol building on February 24th. Physicians are encouraged to register for the event here.
Opponents of caps in medical malpractice cases argue that the limits hurt an injured patient financially and infringe on their individual rights. Some say that the reforms shield bad doctors from accountability for their actions. However, the legislation does not affect the amount a patient can recover for economic damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and other real costs. The non-economic damages are typically related to “pain and suffering,” which is often the largest payment category.
The Keane Group supports medical malpractice tort reform, including reinstatement of the cap on non-economic damages, and we will attend the White Coat Rally and encourage our clients and business partners to do the same. Hope to see you there!