The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the application of caps on damages in medical malpractice cases. Less than a decade ago, the same Court had decided those caps were unconstitutional. 

The difference? When the limitations on noneconomic damages were stricken down in 2012, the Court held the caps violated Missouri citizens’ constitutional right to a jury trial – including Missourians’ rights to have a jury decide the full and fair amount of their damages. Because medical negligence cases were based in common law, that pre-existing constitutional right was violated, and laws imposing caps were unconstitutional. 

Because this was inconvenient to its puppeteers (big insurance), the Missouri state legislature in 2017 destroyed the common law cause of action. They enacted RSMo § 538.210, replacing the common law right with a statutory cause of action. So, while you could still sue negligent doctors and hospitals, now that right was bestowed only by statute – and not common law. The legislature was then free to impose caps that would otherwise be unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruling affirmed that legislation hostile to Missourian’s rights is not unconstitutional so long as the legislature does it in two steps, and not one. With this judicially-approved green light, there is no telling which other cause of actions will soon share a similar fate. Our state legislature once again shows that they are disconnected to interests of the Missouri citizenry.

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