Missouri high court keeps malpractice caps, says they cannot be retroactively applied

While the Supreme Court in Missouri didn't go as far as those in Illinois and Georgia in declaring medical malpractice damage award caps to be unconstitutional, it did take a step in that direction this week by ruling that a cap created in 2005 cannot be applied retroactively to patients injured prior to the law taking effect. 

Initially, a trial judge in 2006 lowered the amount awarded by a jury to James Klotz--who suffered from multiple health issues after his pacemaker implantation in 2004 caused a staph infection--from more than $2 million to $350,000. In 2005, Missouri lowered its medical malpractice cap to $350,000 per lawsuit from $579,000, with then-Gov. Matt Blunt citing that the doing so lowered insurance premiums for physicians, keeping overall health costs lower for everyone. 

This latest ruling means that Klotz and his wife Mary now will receive the full amount awarded to them by the jury. 

Judge Richard Teitelman wrote in a concurring opinion that he couldn't understand how setting a limit on such caps, thus taking such decisions out of the hands of a jury, could help to keep overall health costs lower.

"As compelling as the state's interest in quality healthcare is, I cannot see the necessity of providing that care on the backs of the most disadvantaged victims of medical negligence," Teitelman wrote.

Despite the ruling and its concurring opinions, the Missouri State Medical Association applauded the ruling to keep the malpractice caps in place, with president Thomas Sparkman, MD, saying that the decision "ensures Missouri will be a state where physicians want to practice...mak[ing] Missouri a healthier place to live."

To learn more about the decision in Missouri:
- read this Associated Press article
- here's the court's ruling
- read the Missouri State Medical Association's opinion