Missouri used to be one of two dozen states with laws that cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. While Maryland was able to survive constitutional challenges, Alabama, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, and Georgia have not survived similar challenges. And now, Missouri is the most recent state to strike down the cap on damages!
The case, which brought the constitutionality of the law to the court, involved a lawsuit by the mother of a young boy who was born with brain injuries after a delayed c-section led to fetal hypoxia and acidosis. The boy's mother sued the hospital and several physicians for negligent care. The jury ruled in favor of the mother and awarded her $3.4 million in future medical damages and $1.5 million in noneconomic damages. The judge reduced the noneconomic damages to $350,000, which was the limit set by Missouri law.
The Missouri Supreme Court struck down the state law that capped noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $350,000. It declared that the law infringed on a person's right to trial by jury, which includes the right to have a jury set damages.
The federal government and proponents of medical malpractice caps have long discussed passing a federal cap on damages. However, cases such as the latest in Missouri, that strike down the laws based on the unconstitutionality of the law are demonstrative of how the U.S. Supreme Court may rule if such a federal law were to be passed and then challenged.
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