A bill that would return caps to medical malpractice suits has been passed by the Missouri Legislature and is now awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon’s decision on whether to sign it.
The legislation passed the Senate 28-2 and the House 125-27.
Missouri law currently allows for no caps on such lawsuits, leaving physicians vulnerable to limitless judgments. That’s been the case since 2012, when the Missouri Supreme Court eliminated caps.
The bill, if signed into law, would place a $400,000 cap on noneconomic damage awards in medical malpractice cases. The cap would be raised to $700,000 for catastrophic and wrongful death cases. Both caps would then increase by 1.7 percent each year.
John Marshall, communications director for Signature Medical Group of St. Louis, a physician group comprised of 137 doctors, said the law is a good start.
“This weeds out some of the frivolous cost and massive punitive awards that have caused the cost of health care to spike over the years,” Marshall said. “This is another good step towards reigning in the cost of health care.”
There is a catch to the law. A jury would still be able to award an amount greater than the allowed caps. If a motion is then made contesting the award, the trial court will determine whether the limitations apply in that case.
The law also addresses only noneconomic rewards, more commonly known as pain and suffering awards for a loss of enjoyment of life. With no cap on economic damages, a patient can still sue for the projected wages a person would have earned, which can also stretch into the millions of dollars when figured across an entire lifetime.
Source: STL Business Journal