Bipartisan deal will hurt Missouri medical malpractice victims

A few days ago, the Missouri Senate gave its initial approval to a compromise bill that would reinstate caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims. Malpractice award limits were overturned three years ago by our state's highest court.

Now, however, it appears that Republican and Democrat lawmakers might have forged a bipartisan deal that would establish a new cap system. This latest political deal would put in place a multitiered system that would still limit the rights of injured patients, critics say.

In the new deal, a cap of $400,000 on noneconomic damages would apply. (Noneconomic damages include pain, suffering, loss of companionship, and the like.) The law overturned by the state Supreme Court had a cap of $350,000 for these damages.

In cases of "catastrophic" harm (paralysis, brain injury, blindness), the cap would rise to $700,000.

Economic damages -- things such as medical bills and lost income -- would not be limited by the new bill.

One state senator admitted that even with the modest bumps up in limits, "there will be situations where, frankly, people will not be adequately compensated for their noneconomic damages." Now there's an understatement.

Think of a baby born with severe brain damage due to the negligence of the doctor. Does anyone really think $700,000 is adequate compensation for a lifetime of pain and complete dependence on others?

Opponents of the new proposal say it will hurt people who have already suffered harm at the hands of negligent doctors. Rep. Sheila Solon said the proposed law places limits on the value of a life. Rather than seeing politicians imposing an arbitrary limit on that value, she said she trusts Missouri juries to do what's right in medical malpractice cases.



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