Missouri has capped non-economic damages (for instance pain and suffering damages) for certain types of claims (like claims against a governmental entity or for medical malpractice). For instance, if someone brings a medical malpractice claim, Senate Bill 239, signed into law in 2015, caps the amount of non-economic damages recoverable by a plaintiff. For example, if there was a catastrophic injury or death in the year 2020 (see Mo. Rev. Stat. § 538.210), then a plaintiff can only recover $761,558 of non-economic damages. The cap for non-catastrophic injuries in 2020 is $435,176. This means that even if a jury awards $1,000,000 dollars of pain and suffering damages to the family for the loss of their son on a surgery gone bad, the trial judge would have to reduce the judgment to $761,558.00. Missouri law provides for an annual increase in these caps by a constant rate of 1.7% every year.
As mentioned above, other than medical malpractice cases, there are also caps against governmental entities and their subsidiaries. For instance, if you made a claim against a correctional officer who was employed by the state, the legal expense fund may cover certain damages that are awarded in favor of the plaintiff. However, there is a non-economic damages cap for these claims as well. In 2020, the State Legal Expense Fund Cap is $454,986 according to the Missouri Department of Insurance. Further, there are Sovereign Immunity Caps (see Mo. Rev. Stat. § 537.610) for claims against Missouri public entities. In 2020, the cap for any one person in a single accident or occurrence is $435,849 and for all claims arising out of a single accident or occurrence of $2,905,664.
For any of these potential claims where there is a non-economic damages cap involved, a plaintiff can still recover any potential economic damages that are related to the injury or death caused by the medical malpractice. This includes:
- The cost of past and future cost of medical care for someone who will need life-long care because of an injury;
- Other quantifiable financial loss;
- Lost or diminished earning capacity resulting from the malpractice; and/or
- Income lost because of the malpractice.
It should be worth noting that the cap does not also apply to punitive damages. The intent by the legislature to cap these damage awards was supposedly to prevent the rise of insurance premiums.
Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Help
Finding a reliable medical malpractice attorney can be all the difference between getting just compensation and walking away with nothing. An experienced Missouri medical malpractice attorney will discuss the pros and cons of your claim and guide you on what to do moving forward. Please contact Foster Wallace today to set up a free, initial consultation.