On March 27, 2015, we informed our readers of the possibility that caps in medical malpractice damages might return to Missouri. As of May 7, 2015, caps are back in play. Recently, the House of Representatives passed the Senate damage cap bill by 125 to 27 vote, and sent it to Governor Jay Nixon for signature.
Because the Senate bill represented a compromise among the vast majority of interested parties, the Governor signed the bill into law, remarking on its bipartisan nature and the fairness in restitution to individuals injured by medical negligence in Missouri.
The bill limits non-economic damages in medical negligence claims to $400,000 unless the underlying injury meets the criteria of a “catastrophic case” including paralysis, brain injury, loss of two or more limbs, irreversible failure of one or more organ systems, and vision loss.
The new caps continue the previous legislation in that a claim for loss of consortium is melded into the plaintiff’s claim such that they are considered the same plaintiff, and only one cap applies. Likewise, the new law continues the limitation of one cap irrespective of the number of defendants limiting any medical negligence case to a maximum of $700,000 in non-economic damages irrespective of the existence of a loss of consortium claim or the existence of multiple defendants.
Also in this bill is an increase in the wrongful death cap on damages from $350,000 to $700,000, recognizing the catastrophic nature of death as a result of medical negligence.
Untouched are economic damages and they remain uncapped. This bill ends an anomaly that has existed in Missouri’s medical jurisprudence, whereby damages for an individual’s death were capped at $350,000, while negligence not leading to death remained uncapped. As a result, this bill will go a long way to giving some certainty to business entities dealing in medical care in Missouri while at the same time providing ample restitution for individuals and their families harmed by acts of medical negligence.