Child Diagnosed With Cerebral Palsy Due to Medical Malpractice and Negligence
On Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned the cap
on non-economic damages that can be awarded to plaintiffs in
medical malpractice cases. This opinion reverses a 20 year-old Supreme Court decision that
upheld the caps in a case where they were previously challenged.
The case at issue is a medical malpractice suit filed in state court out
of Green County, MO. The cause of action originated at Cox Medical Center,
a Springfield, MO area hospital. The Plaintiff, Deborah Watts, and her
minor-child, filed the
birth injury lawsuit after her son was born with severe brain damage due to lack of
oxygen prior to and during birth, resulting in irreversible complications
including cerebral palsy.
After the case went to trial, and Ms. Watts and her son won, the jury awarded
Ms. Watts $3.37 million for past and future medical damages. In addition,
they awarded the family $1.45 million for the pain and suffering that
they endured and continue to endure as a result of the medical negligence
of Cox Medical Center.
Under previous Missouri law, these damages would be capped and reduced
Ms. Watts retained a specialist from Washington, DC in constitutional law,
and they challenged the award reduction on the grounds that cap was unconstitutional.
The Missouri Supreme Court deliberated, and on a 4-3 decision, ruled that
non-economic damage caps were a violation of the constitutional right
to trial by jury. They further determined that the specific details of
each case should be the basis by which the court examines a case when
determining non-economic damages, instead of a blanket cap on pain, suffering,
and other non-economic damages.
See the full text of the Supreme Court Opinion