A study of medical malpractice lawsuits in Missouri shows a bad trend developing, but it also suggests some assumptions about the malpractice situation are not true.The State Insurance Department says 205 medical malpractice claims that were paid in 2002 involved patient deaths. Up 49 percent from 2001 and up by more than two-thirds from 2000. Deaths accounted for more than one-third of all malpractice claims. Add permanent injury suits and you have two-thirds of all claims paid. Department spokesman Randy McConnell says that all adds up to an increase in payments in malpractice cases. Average payments for medical malpractice suits caused by deaths were almost$255,000. Average awards for permanent injuries reached more than $291,000. He says only three percent of lawsuits go to trial. And that’s half of what the figure was two years ago. Missouri limits damages for “pain and suffering,” which holds down the size of judgments. Last year there were only six million-dollar-plus judgments in Missouiri, down from 8 in 2001, and from the high of 11 in 1996. He says you won’t read about anything like a $73-Million judgment – which happened in Rhode Island – in Missouri.