Missouri General Assembly Considers Imposing Damage Cap

Missouri Statutes contain several provisions relating to suits for damages against healthcare providers. Healthcare providers include physicians, hospitals, nurses, dentists, and chiropractors, but also nursing homes, podiatrists, pharmacists, physical therapists, and any other licensed person providing healthcare services. In 2005 the statutes were amended to impose a cap on "non-economic damages" in the amount of $350,000. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering but not lost wages or medical bills.

In 2012 the Missouri Supreme Court held this cap to be unconstitutional, as a violation of the right to trial by jury set forth in the Missouri constitution. (In a separate case the Supreme Court ruled that the cap is not unconstitutional in a wrongful death lawsuit against a healthcare provider.)

Currently the Missouri General Assembly is considering several bills which would reinstate the cap on non-economic damages. It is not yet clear whether any of those bills will be passed by the General Assembly, or signed by the governor, or upheld by the Supreme Court. Also pending in the general assembly are bills which would increase the burden of proof on a plaintiff seeking non-economic damages in a lawsuit against a healthcare provider.

Whether the cap is reinstated could be especially important in claims against nursing homes, since such claims generally do not include lost wages or lost earning capacity and therefore economic damages are often limited.

LP Leritz & Plunkert, PC

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