Suit Challenges Missouri Noneconomic Damage Limits

medical-malpractice*750In 2012 the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the state’s law placing limits on the amount juries can award for non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional. The law placed a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in jury awards.

Now the court will hear another case that took place in 2011 in which a jury awarded $9 million in noneconomic damages, but that award was limited to $350,000 based on state law in place at that time.

St. Louis-area cardiologist Dr. Robert Ferrara performed a heart test on Shannon Dodson that blocked blood flow in her heart and required emergency surgery. Dodson, 34, died that day.

The Missouri Supreme Court seemed more than interested according to the arguments heard.

“We’re trying to decide whether or not the Legislature would have enacted this law as it is now given what we know now,” Judge Laura Denvir Stith said.

“The court has found one of those efforts unconstitutional,” said Ferrara’s attorney Paul Venker said of the 2012 ruling. “The idea of trying to still deal with the medical malpractice insurance crisis was still there, is still there.

“It’s inconceivable that we can articulate a basis to say we’re going to decide the limit on damages based solely on whether the person lives or dies,” said Dodson attorney Patrick Hagerty.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s signed a bill earlier this year capping specific damage awards in medical malpractice cases, three years after the state Supreme Court overturned lower caps.

Under the bill passed this year, noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, would be capped at $400,000 in most medical personal injury cases.

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