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Missouri Supreme Court Decision on Non-Economic Damage Caps

October 4, 2012 | Bryan Mouber

Supreme Court of Missouri issued an opinion in Deborah Watts as Next Friend for Naython Kayne Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers d/b/a/ Family Care Center, Lester E. Cox Medical Centers, Melissa R. Hermann, M.D., Matthew P. Green, D.O., and William S. Kelly, M.D. holding that RSMo 538.210, which caps non-economic damages, is unconstitutional, as it violates the right to trial by jury.

In accepting Plaintiff’s argument that 538.210 violated his right to trial by jury, the Court overrules Adams By and Through Adams v. Children’s Mercy Hosp., 832 S.W.2d 898 (Mo. Banc 1992). After going through a brief history of English, early American and Missouri common law, the Court states that assessing damages is part of the jury’s fact-finding function and that restricting that function violates the right to trial by jury as encapsulated by Missouri Constitution.

Clearly, such a decision has significant impact on Missouri’s medical profession. Costs of medical malpractice insurance will almost certainly increase. To date, there is no legislation pending that attempts to address the Court’s reversal of the legislature. The full opinion may be found on the Missouri Supreme Court’s website here.

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The BSCR Missouri Law Blog examines significant developments, trends and changes in Missouri law on a broad range of topics of interest to Missouri practitioners and attorneys and businesses with disputes subject to Missouri law. Learn more about the editor, David Eisenberg.

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