Missouri House seeks to limit medical liability

By CHRIS BLANK

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House pushed Thursday to reinstate a cap on certain damages in medical malpractice cases that the state Supreme Court struck down last summer.

Doctors say the cap helps control malpractice insurance premiums and warned that unlimited economic damages for issues such as pain and suffering will harm the availability and affordability of health care in Missouri. Opponents of the cap on damages said it prevents juries from determining in each case what an injured person should receive.

An upper limit of $350,000 for noneconomic damages was a major piece of Missouri Republicans’ efforts in 2005 to curb liability lawsuits. Before then, the state had an inflation-adjusted cap of $579,000 for noneconomic damages against each defendant for each act of negligence.

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision in July that the 2005 law was unconstitutional. The court’s majority pointed to the Missouri Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states “the right of a trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate.” Because Missourians had a common-law right to seek damages for medical malpractice claims when the constitution was enacted in 1820, the court concluded any limit on damages that restricts the jury’s fact-finding role violates the constitutional right to trial by jury.

The state House legislation would eliminate the common-law right to file a lawsuit over health care services while replacing it with a statutory right to sue. The previous noneconomic damages cap of $350,000 would remain in place. A Senate committee held a public hearing last month about a similar bill.

Rep. Keith Frederick, who is an orthopedic surgeon, said new doctors have options about where they will work and that the medical malpractice climate is a factor they consider. He said if the sky is the limit, an unintentional error could prompt a jury award that far exceeds a doctor’s insurance coverage.

“Physicians are staring down the barrel of that potential lawsuit every day,” said Frederick, R-Rolla.

House members approved the legislation 93-62 with 10 Republicans joining all 52 Democrats in opposition. It now moves to the state Senate.

Critics call for the protection of the fundamental right to a jury trial. One lawmaker questioned whether passing a new state law instead of a constitutional amendment would be sufficient to overcome the constitutional problems cited by the Supreme Court.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, who has represented plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, said such lawsuits are risky for lawyers because they often are lengthy and expensive. He said usually doctors and that insurance companies don’t like to settle.

Ellinger, D-University City, said it is unjust to limit noneconomic damages to $350,000 for someone who has been seriously injured.

“The system is not broken. Everyone has a right to go to court. Don’t place a barrier on everyday people who get hurt,” he said.

Missouri’s renewed efforts to curb liability in medical malpractice cases comes after the Kansas Supreme Court last fall upheld that state’s limit of $250,000 for noneconomic damages.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has said the insurance market needs to be predictable and that he is not “philosophically opposed” to limits.

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Lawsuit limits is HB112

Online:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

Mo. House vote on medical liability limits

By The Associated Press

The 93-62 roll call by which the Missouri House voted Thursday to approve legislation seeking to reinstate limits on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

Voting “yes” were 93 Republicans.

Voting “no” were 10 Republicans and 52 Democrats.

Not voting were 6 Republicans.

REPUBLICANS VOTING YES

Sue Allen, Town and Country.

Sonya Anderson, Springfield.

Kevin Austin, Springfield.

Mike Bernskoetter, Jefferson City.

T.J. Berry, Kearney.

Rick Brattin, Harrisonville.

Wanda Brown, Lincoln.

Eric Burlison, Springfield.

Kathie Conway, St. Charles.

Steve Cookson, Poplar Bluff.

Stanley Cox, Sedalia.

Sandy Crawford, Buffalo.

Gary Cross, Lee’s Summit.

Charlie Davis, Webb City.

John Diehl, Town and Country.

Dean Dohrman, La Monte.

Tony Dugger, Hartville.

Kevin Elmer, Nixa.

Kevin Engler, Farmington.

Sue Entlicher, Bolivar.

Scott Fitzpatrick, Shell Knob.

Paul Fitzwater, Potosi.

Tom Flanigan, Carthage.

Lyndall Fraker, Marshfield.

Diane Franklin, Camdenton.

Keith Frederick, Rolla.

Doug Funderburk, St. Peters.

Elaine Gannon, De Soto.

Chuck Gatschenberger, Lake St. Louis.

Don Gosen, Chesterfield.

Casey Guernsey, Bethany.

Marsha Haefner, St. Louis.

Kent Hampton, Malden.

Jim Hansen, Frankford.

Ron Hicks, St. Peters.

Galen Higdon, St. Joseph.

Dave Hinson, St. Clair.

Denny Hoskins, Warrensburg.

Lincoln Hough, Springfield.

Jay Houghton, Martinsburg.

Thomas Hurst, Meta.

Delus Johnson, St. Joseph.

Jeffery Justus, Branson.

Shelley Keeney, Marble Hill.

Mike Kelley, Lamar.

Andrew Koenig, Manchester.

Glen Kolkmeyer, Wellington.

Bart Korman, High Hill.

Mike Lair, Chillicothe.

Bill Lant, Joplin.

Jeanie Lauer, Blue Springs.

Mike Leara, St. Louis.

Warren Love, Osceola.

Steve Lynch, Waynesville.

Joe Don McGaugh, Carrollton.

Jeffrey Messenger, Republic.

Rocky Miller, Tuscumbia.

Chris Molendorp, Belton.

Lynn Morris, Nixa.

Dave Muntzel, Boonville.

Jim Neely, Cameron.

Myron Neth, Liberty.

Mark Parkinson, St. Charles .

Donna Pfautsch, Harrisonville.

Don Phillips, Kimberling City.

Randy Pike, Adrian.

Jeff Pogue, Salem.

Craig Redmon, Canton.

Holly Rehder, Sikeston.

Bill Rieboldt, Neosho.

Tim Remole, Excello.

Shawn Rhoads, West Plains.

Todd Richardson, Poplar Bluff.

Jeanie Riddle, Mokane.

Robert Ross, Yukon.

Lyle Rowland, Cedarcreek.

Dwight Scharnhorst, St. Louis.

Dave Schatz, Sullivan.

Noel Shull, Kansas City.

Lindell Shumake, Hannibal.

Jason Smith, Salem.

Chrissy Sommer, St. Charles.

Bryan Spencer, Wentzville.

Rick Stream, Kirkwood.

Kathy Swan, Cape Girardeau.

Mike Thomson, Maryville.

Noel Torpey, Independence.

Nathan Walker, Kirksville.

Bill White, Joplin.

Paul Wieland, Imperial.

Kenneth Wilson, Smithville.

David Wood, Versailles.

Tim Jones, Eureka.

REPUBLICANS VOTING NO

Jay Barnes, Jefferson City.

Robert Cornejo, St. Peters.

Dennis Fowler, Advance.

Jeff Grisamore, Lee’s Summit.

Elijah Haahr, Springfield.

Nick Marshall, Parkville.

John McCaherty, High Ridge.

Caleb Rowden, Columbia.

Ron Schieber, Kansas City.

Sheila Solon, Blue Springs.

DEMOCRATS VOTING NO

Ira Anders, Independence.

Linda Black, Desloge.

Bob Burns, St. Louis.

Michael Butler, St. Louis.

Jon Carpenter, Kansas City.

Mike Colona, St. Louis.

Pat Conway, St. Joseph.

Courtney Curtis, Berkeley.

Randy Dunn, Kansas City.

Rory Ellinger, University City.

Brandon Ellington, Kansas City.

Keith English, Florissant.

Vicki Englund, St. Louis.

Michael Frame, Eureka.

Kimberly Gardner, St. Louis.

Ben Harris, Hillsboro.

Steve Hodges, East Prairie.

Penny Hubbard, St. Louis.

Jacob Hummel, St. Louis.

Chris Kelly, Columbia.

Jeanne Kirkton, Webster Groves.

Michele Kratky, St. Louis.

Jeremy LaFaver, Kansas City.

Karla May, St. Louis.

John Mayfield, Independence.

Gail McCann Beatty, Kansas City.

Tom McDonald, Independence.

TJ McKenna, Festus.

Kevin McManus, Kansas City.

Margo McNeil, Florissant.

Sue Meredith, St. Louis.

Bonnaye Mims, Kansas City.

Gina Mitten, St. Louis.

Genise Montecillo, St. Louis.

Judy Morgan, Kansas City.

Stacey Newman, St. Louis.

Mary Nichols, Maryland Heights.

Charlie Norr, Springfield.

Bill Otto, St. Charles.

Sharon Pace, Northwoods.

Tommie Pierson, St. Louis.

John Rizzo, Kansas City.

Jeff Roorda, Barnhart.

Joe Runions, Grandview.

Ed Schieffer, Troy.

Jill Schupp, Creve Coeur.

Clem Smith, Velda Village Hills.

Jay Swearingen, Kansas City.

Rochelle Walton Gray, Black Jack.

Steve Webb, Florissant.

Stephen Webber, Columbia.

John Wright, Rocheport.

REPUBLICANS NOT VOTING

Kurt Bahr, O’Fallon.

Mike Cierpiot, Lee’s Summit.

Paul Curtman, Pacific.

Caleb Jones, California.

Donna Lichtenegger, Jackson.

Anne Zerr, St. Charles.

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