Over the past few years, the highest courts in several states have heard challenges to caps on medical malpractice damages for non-economic injuries, such as pain and suffering. These sorts of caps on damages have been ruled unconstitutional in several states based on the fact that the caps deprive a person of the constitutional right to have a jury make a decision.
In an interesting twist, the Missouri House has just endorsed the reinstatement of medical malpractice caps. The state originally passed a cap on damages in 2005, but last year the cap was struck down by the state Supreme Court. Now it looks like it may be reinstated. The proposal is sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, and puts a $350,000 limit on non-economic damages. “Without these limits, Missouri’s health care industry is subject to erratic and excessive jury awards that will raise the cost of care,” Burlison said.
His solution to solving the issue of unconstitutionality is to put the right to sue for malpractice into statutory law, rather than have it as part of common law. During the house debate about the issue, Burlinson said that since the original cap was put in place in 2005, “the cost for health insurance – medical malpractice premiums – have gone down and the volume of lawsuits have gone down, until this year when the caps were thrown out by the courts.”
He also noted that the state has been gaining physicians since the caps were put into place. An analysis conducted last year by the Missouri Foundation for Health found that claims again doctors had dropped about 24% since caps were put into place in 2005. The bill to reinstate caps passed in the Missouri House by a 93-62 vote and is now headed to the state Senate.