The Missouri legislature has sent Governor Jay Nixon a bill to limit awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases.
It would cap awards that aren’t compensation for lost wages, medical costs or other quantifiable economic losses at $400,000. In cases defined by the bill as “catastrophic,” including paralysis, loss of vision or brain damage, the limit would be $700,000.
It would also extend the existing limit on non economic damages in wrongful death cases from $350,000 to $700,000, and all the caps would increase by 1.7-percent annually.
Supporters say the plan will keep liability insurance costs lower for doctors, meaning more will come to or remain in Missouri to practice. Opponents say caps will keep some patients from receiving a just award and allow doctors who harm patients to remain in practice.
House sponsor Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) said he would like the bill to have gone further.
“It’s disappointing that we’re not moving in a more competitive direction,” said Burlison. “We have states like Kansas and other states who, their caps are set at $250,000 and if you’re a practicing physician and you’re looking at where you’re going to go, if you’re in the Kansas City area you may still look at the State of Kansas. So while this is not really addressing that competitive situation, at least it’s better than the current status quo, which is that [doctors] … are open to all kinds of risk at this moment, because there are no caps.”
The state Supreme Court struck down caps on such damages in 2012.
The legislation received strong bipartisan support, clearing the state Senate 28-2 and the House 125-27.