The Missouri Supreme Court struck down on Tuesday an artificial $350,000 limit on jury awards for ‘pain and suffering’ in medical malpractice cases, saying the law violates a patient’s right to a jury trial. (In California the artificial cap is $250,000).
The cap on malpractice awards was established by a 2005 state law that was championed by Republicans as part of a ‘tort reform’ push.” The court held in a 4-3 decision that the cap “infringes on the jury’s constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party.”
The ruling was praised by plaintiffs’ attorneys, who had opposed the 2005 law while warning that it could leave injured, ill and disabled residents without enough money to compensate them for their dramatically altered lifestyles. Kansas City attorney Tim Dollar, president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, is quoted as saying, “Everyone who believes in the constitution should be thrilled with this decision.”
In the ruling, Chief Justice Richard Teitelman argued that the Missouri constitution established “the right to a trial by jury” and that “include[s] a jury’s deciding how much the damages would be.”
Note to California consumers- In 1975, an artificial cap of $250,000 (MICRA) was enacted after a massive lobbying effort by the insurance industry. For 37 years, hard working consumer lawyers have been trying to increase this cap or have it deemed unconstitutional. It is noted that at no time has this artificial cap ever been increased to take inflation into consideration and many insurance defense attorneys tell us privately that the cap should be closer to $750,000-$1,000,000 or eliminated completely.