Missouri Supreme Court Overturns Cap on Noneconomic Damages

August 24, 2012 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


In a 4-3 decision issued July 31, 2012, the Supreme Court of Missouri has ruled that the state’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits violates provisions of the Missouri constitution. Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers involved a child who was born with catastrophic brain injury; the mother filed a medical malpractice action against the defendants, alleging that they provided negligent healthcare services. A jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding $1.45 million in noneconomic damages and $3.37 million in future medical damages. The trial court reduced the noneconomic damages to $350,000 in accordance with the state’s cap. On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the cap violates several provisions of the state constitution, including the right to trial by jury.

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