A 2005 Missouri law that placed caps on non-economic damages in the amount of $350,000 is presently being challenged as unconstitutional in a case before the Supreme Court of Missouri. The case involves a medical malpractice claim arising out of the birth of a baby in Missouri on November 1, 2006. The Supreme Court of Missouri heard the parties’ oral arguments in support of their respective positions on March 27, 2012. It is uncertain when the Supreme Court of Missouri may issue its decision in the case.
According to the allegations in the medical malpractice lawsuit filed in 2009, the medical personnel in the hospital who participated in the labor and delivery of the plaintiff’s baby were negligent in their medical care and their medical negligence resulted in catastrophic and disabling brain injuries to the newborn.
At the time of the jury trial in 2011, the then 5 year old had the mental capacity of a 3 year old and will remain at that mental capacity for the rest of his life. The child suffers from cerebral palsy and will never be able to walk.
The medical malpractice jury awarded damages in the amount of $4,821,000, of which $1.45 million was for noneconomic damages (mental anguish, pain and suffering, etc.). The trial judge then reduced the noneconomic damages award to $350,000 (the amount of the Missouri cap on noneconomic damages) without the jury ever knowing about the cap (as required by the Missouri law).
The constitutional challenge to the Missouri noneconomic damages cap is based on the arguments that it is a violation of the right to trial by jury inasmuch as the jury’s verdict is reduced to the arbitrary limit of the noneconomic damages cap as provided in the Missouri law and it is also a violation of the equal protection clause inasmuch as the negligent health care providers are given special protection/treatment under the law. The successful medical malpractice plaintiff (the mother of the child on her child’s behalf) also argues that the cap violates the separation of powers by invading the judiciary’s traditional function of assessing on a case-by-case basis whether a jury’s damages award is excessive, inadequate, or against the weight of the evidence.
About 30 states in the United States have enacted caps on medical malpractice damages in one form or another. The caps on noneconomic damages have been challenged in the highest courts of many states, with some states upholding the caps as being constitutional and others finding the caps on damages to be defective as unconstitutional or for other reasons.
If you or a family member were the victim of medical malpractice in Missouri or in another state in the United States, you may have the right to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses. A medical malpractice attorney in your state may help you determine if you have the basis for bringing a medical malpractice claim and to file a medical malpractice claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or telephone us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to help you with your possible medical malpractice case.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.