Missouri Lawmakers Pass Bill to Reinstate Malpractice Award Caps

April 23, 2015

A measure to reinstate limits on lawsuit awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases is heading to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk three years after the state Supreme Court overturned lower caps.

The Missouri House voted 125-27 to approve a measure that limits noneconomic damages in malpractice cases. It’s a change supporters have been calling for since the state’s high court eliminated caps in a 2012 decision that hospital and doctor’s groups warned would increase insurance costs, stall expansions of hospitals and deter doctors from practicing in the state.

The measure, a compromise reached by Senate Democrats and Republicans, would cap most noneconomic awards — which do not include lost wages, medical costs or other measurable economic damages — at $400,000. In catastrophic cases defined in the bill, including paralysis, loss of vision or brain injury, the cap would be $700,000.

Rep. Eric Burlison, who guided the bill through the House, said the measure would help doctors in planning for the future.

“While it’s not the ideal, it is certainty,” he said of the Senate’s compromise.

Opponents have said in the past that caps harm patients who have already been injured by the actions of a doctor and may also make it easier for doctors who repeatedly harm patients to keep practicing.

The bill also raises an existing $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases to $700,000. The caps would rise by 1.7 percent each year under the measure.

The bill is SB 239.

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