Missouri Supreme Court overturns $350,000 statutory limits on non-economic damage caps. By James R. Cantalin, Esq.
In the July 31 ruling, Judge Teitelman, writing for the four judge majority, overturned twenty years of well-established precedent in Adams by and Through Adams v. Children’s Mercy Hospital, 832 S.W.2d 898, 907 (Mo. banc 1992), and invalidated Missouri State Statute Section 538.210, which provided a $350,000 damage cap on non-economic damages (pain and suffering). The damage cap was voted on and approved by both the Missouri State House of Representatives and State Senators and signed by the Missouri Governor in 2005. Nevertheless, the four-judge majority found, in Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Center, that the 2005 passed statute “infringes on the jury’s constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party.” The court’s ruling negated the Missouri Supreme Court precedent, in Adams, which was squarely in line with other jurisdictions that have addressed the constitutional validity of statutory caps on non-economic damages since 1992.
What does this mean for Missouri citizens who bring medical malpractice cases against our Missouri physicians and surgeons?
Larger uncontrolled McDonald-type hot coffee lottery jury verdicts.
What does it mean for Missouri physicians and surgeons?
A return of the ever increasing pre-2005 tort reform professional liability insurance premiums, return of Missouri’s judicial hell-whole rankings and the eventual relocation to the other more forward thinking states that have held such damage caps constitutional.
What will the future hold for the rest of the Missouri citizens, if the run-a-way jury verdicts are not capped?
Fewer physicians and surgeons to care for us, longer waiting room times, and potentially no insurance coverage to pay the lottery winning jury verdicts, due to a collapse of those medical malpractice insurance carriers who have not taken proactive steps to prepare for the overturn of the statutory damage caps.
James R. Cantalin, J.D., is the General Counsel for Missouri Professionals Mutual. MPM has been the largest professional liability provider in Missouri in both market share and membership since 2004. As General Counsel for MPM, Jim manages all of MPM’s legal matters including the selection of outside defense counsel and claims management. Prior to joining MPM, Jim had extensive experience in handling medical negligence claims on behalf of physicians in Missouri and Illinois. He is a member of the Missouri Bar, Lawyers Association of St. Louis, Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers, Missouri Society of Health Care Attorneys and former member of the Board of Governors for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis and Past President of the Lawyers Association of St. Louis. Additionally, Jim is an Adjunct Professor of Law at St. Louis University School of Law and a frequent speaker on Risk Management issues throughout Missouri.