Non-Economic Damages In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits (Tort Reform in Missouri Part 3)

Non-Economic Damages In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits (Tort Reform in Missouri Part 3)

Our final look into the issue that is Tort Reform in Missouri comes from one of our own retained attorneys and frequent speaker at our Risk Management seminars, J. Thaddeus Eckenrode. On July 31, 2012 the Supreme Court of Missouri abolished “caps” on non-economic damages in cases brought under Missouri’s medical negligence statute, §538.210 RSMo.1 Non-economic damages generally include items like pain and suffering and emotional distress. The court’s ruling in Watts v. Cox Medical Centers, et al., may impact the cost of medical malpractice coverage and eventually its overall availability. Since the most recent tort reform legislation passed in 2005, plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases have been limited to a maximum recovery of $350,000 in total non-economic damages. This legislation has been hotly contested in Missouri courts since its passage. Missouri had a version of a “cap” in place prior to the 2005 revision, which was originally upheld as constitutional in 1992. That pre-tort reform cap started at $350,000 when enacted, but increased annually with economic escalators, and was applied on a per party, per occurrence (each act of negligence) basis, which allowed for extremely high, albeit “capped”, awards. The 2005 tort reform legislation closed those various loopholes, limiting verdicts consistently for the past six years. The Watts case was a medical malpractice suit against Cox Medical Center and its associated physicians alleging negligent prenatal care to Deborah Watts that caused catastrophic brain injuries to her son. The jury found in favor of Ms.Watts and awarded her $1.45 million in non-economic damages (as well as future medical expenses). Pursuant to Missouri’s 2005 tort reform statute, the trial court...

Medical Malpractice Insurance (Tort Reform in Missouri Part Two)

Today we will be discussing Tort Reform in Missouri and the impact it has had on Doctors in Missouri, specifically the cause of the escalation in medical malpractice insurance costs.  Dr. Hagen has been fighting to build tort reform policies in Missouri that benefit patients and the Doctors that treat them.  Medical malpractice insurance costs rise and fall due to many factors, one of those being litigation costs from frivolous lawsuits.  Again MoDocs believes the best way to combat frivolous lawsuits, medical negligence and  rising medical malpractice insurance costs is through continuing medical education by way of Risk Management. The following is a fairly dated article but details out nicely the impact Tort Reform has had on keeping and bringing Doctors to Missouri from BmcToday.net.   In 2003, medicine in Missouri was on life support. Physicians were leaving in droves to practice in states with affordable malpractice insurance and a less predatory tort bar. Despite seven medical schools in Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas, few residents and fellows could afford to set up a practice in Missouri or to join state medical groups. Huge areas of the Show-Me State were left without neurosurgical or high-risk obstetrics coverage. This article reviews the enactment and effect of tort reform in Missouri and our related thoughts on health care reform at the national level. KANSAS VERSUS MISSOURI Many Missouri physicians headed west to Kansas in 2003. The contrast between the states is worth noting. Kansas politics are dominated by commercial and agricultural interests, and legislation is generally business friendly. The Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, the executive director/lobbyist of which from 1977 to...
Tort Reform in Missouri

Tort Reform in Missouri

Tort reform in Missouri has taken 2 very distinct sides.  Below is an article by Sarah Okeson viewing the victims rights side of tort reform in Missouri.  In next months news we will be featuring the Doctors perspective.  At MoDocs we obviously support a cap on non-economic damages through tort reform in Missouri but want our website readership to be well informed and able to see both sides of the problem.  This is not an issue that will be solved overnight and MoDocs firmly believes that the true solution to the problem lies in continuing medical education through Risk Management.   Naython Watts, now 5 years old, was born with catastrophic brain injuries at Cox South in November 2006 from what a Greene County jury later ruled was medical negligence. He will never be able to walk and has trouble feeding himself. The legal term for losses such as the pain and suffering Naython will experience during his life is “non-economic damages.” In 2005, then-Gov. Matt Blunt signed a law that limited such damages in medical malpractice cases in Missouri to $350,000 as part of what was billed as tort reform. The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out that limit in a case about Naython and the care his mother received while she was pregnant. The 4-3 ruling could affect patients statewide who are harmed by medical negligence and their families. It will not apply to cases where the patients die, which are still subject to caps imposed by the legislature. “It has an impact on people in the state of Missouri and maybe beyond the state of...
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