In a recent court case, the Supreme Court of Missouri has gotten rid of their prior cap on noneconomic damages as they relate to medical malpractice lawsuits. The former amount was a $350,000 maximum. Medical professionals are disappointed by the decision, but this may prove beneficial to patients who become the victims of medical negligence. Noneconomic damage caps in general are controversial, because many argue that they limit rights to a trial by jury and fair compensation. Noneconomic damages are things such as emotional distress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and loss of enjoyment of life.
Not only do victims of medical malpractice and other wrongs seek compensation for the tangible injuries they suffered, but for the psychological turmoil the incident caused. There may be difficulty in gauging an actual dollar amount for noneconomic damages, simply because you can't put a price on a life. If someone suffered a spinal cord injury, for example, and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of their life, how would one go on determining an exact dollar amount for the emotional turmoil that wheelchair confinement caused? These caps have, in a way, protected the medical industry from excessive lawsuits which some argue makes healthcare more affordable for all.
The root of the issue comes down to what is "fair," and fairness is never an easy thing to determine. While money is an issue, the other and arguably more important issue here is those who become victims of malpractice. Do noneconomic damages without caps harm the medical industry? Possibly, but this in no way justifies wrongful actions on behalf of physicians. Hospital error is something that will happen, just as in any other industry, but noneconomic damages are reserved for those who suffered harm in avoidable instances. Doctors aren't expected to be perfect, but they do have a duty of care to their patients. Sometimes, $350,000 simply isn't enough to make up for the pain and suffering that medical malpractice caused a victim.
At least, that's what the Missouri Supreme Court believed. It all stemmed from the case in which a woman filed a lawsuit against Lester E. Cox Medical Centers for their negligence which resulted in her son being born with permanently disabling brain damage. Rather than the expected $350,000, the woman and her son received $1.5 million in noneconomic damages. This landmark decision scares and shocks those in the medical industry, while empowering and exciting patients and patient advocate groups. At Arnold & Itkin, we will fight for what our clients deserve, bottom line. If you have become the victim of medical malpractice then we are interested in speaking with you and informing you of your rights to representation. Call us today!