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Missouri Supreme Court to Decide on Malpractice Cap Law

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By Minara El-Rahman on January 20, 2010 1:15 PM

The Missouri Supreme Court is set to rule on whether a 2005 law which set a medical malpractice cap violates the state constitution. According to the Insurance Journal, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the malpractice cap law should not be applied retroactively and cannot be used to discriminate against spouses of those who are injured. The law was passed because legislators claimed that it would limit the rise in costs of insurance premiums. The rationale was that if there was tort reform, then healthcare would become more affordable for Missouri residents.

However, this has not been the case. According to Findlaw, the medical malpractice cap in Missouri of $350,000 dollars has led to a drop in medical malpractice insurance, but not health care costs for patients in Missouri. Why is that? That is because based on what the Missouri's Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration reports, claim payments are less than 20 percent of overall health insurance premiums. This case seeks to question if this malpractice cap law is effective.

The crux of this particular case focuses on Missouri's constitutional prohibition for applying laws retroactively. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that the malpractice cap law was enacted on Aug. 28, 2005. The lawyers argue that requiring lawsuits that were filed after that date, but with the negligence occurring prior to that date is the same as using the law retroactively.

The plaintiffs also claim that limiting the damages awarded to the spouse of an injured person is also unconstitutional. The damages for "loss of consortium with their spouse'' limited the spouses' access to the courts which is a constitutional right in the Missouri Constitution. As a result, this case has drawn a lot of attention. Currently, there are 25 groups that have submitted amicus briefs in support of striking the malpractice law down.

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