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Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Malpractice Caps


In a landmark decision made July 31, 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down the cap on non-economic medical malpractice awards. The court, in a divided opinion, determined that the Missouri 2005 law passed as Tort Reform violates “a jury’s constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party.”The decision evolved from a case involving an award of damages to an infant’s mother for catastrophic brain injuries resulting from the provision of negligent health care services. A jury found that the care given by a provider caused the infant’s brain injuries and awarded Deborah Watts $1.45 million in non-economic damages. These damages were then reduced to $350,000 by the trial court judge, in accordance with the terms of the Missouri statutes.Watts appealed, arguing that a cap on non-economic damages violates the right to trial by jury as guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution. The Missouri Supreme Court, in striking down the caps, overruled a prior case they had decided. Chief Justice Richard Teitelman, writing for the majority, pointed to several flaws in the prior decision and acknowledged the court’s responsibility to overturn erroneous precedent.

This decision will significantly impact physicians, patients and the companies that provide medical malpractice to the physicians licensed in the state of Missouri.

For more specific information on how this will impact your organization, please contact Ron Present, CALA, CHNA, LNHA, Health Care Advisory Services practice leader, at 314.983.1358 or Alan Fine, CPA, JD, Insurance Advisory Services Member, at 314.983.1292.



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