Mo. House committee passes bill to limit malpractice damages
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Mo. House committee passes bill to limit malpractice damages

Date: February 27, 2013
By: Meghan Boggess
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 112 HJR 6

JEFFERSON CITY - Victims of medical malpractice would be limited in pain and suffering awards.

The House Health Committee passed a bill with a 7-3 vote that would limit the amount of non-economic damages awarded in medical malpractice cases to $350,000. The bill now goes to the House chamber.

The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a similar bill in July 2012. The court held that the previous cap took away the jury's fact-finding role by limiting the damages they could award, which violated the plaintiff's right to a trial by jury.

The cap applies to non-economic damages, which are defined as damages to quality of life, pain, suffering and loss of a loved one, among other injuries. Since these damages are intangible it is difficult for juries to quantify respective damages, and non-economic damages often amount to millions of dollars.

The proposal is meant to improve the cost and quality of health care in Missouri by lowering the cost of medical malpractice insurance and thus the cost of medical treatment for patients. The bills would also lower risk for specialized practices.

Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-Webster Groves, offered another solution.

"The one thing that has not been implemented is giving the Department of Insurance some regulatory teeth…in my opinion that’s a better answer to this issue than the caps," said Kirkton, who voted against the bill.

A House joint resolution has been proposed that would also cap non-economic damages at $350,000, as well as two bills in the Senate that would cap medical malpractice damages and make it harder to prove medical malpractice.

As of 2011, at least 28 states had a cap on medical malpractice damages. None of the caps exceeded $2 million.


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