Category Archives: Missouri

December 2017 Newsletter

Year-end report sheds light on “Judicial Hellholes” The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) end-of-year “Judicial Hellholes” report offers a public glimpse at the most unfriendly jurisdictions for those defending themselves against civil litigation, including medical liability lawsuits. At the top of the list this year was Florida, where once-strong medical liability reforms have been continuously rolled back at the expense of patients seeking affordable and accessible care. “This year, thanks to a state high court majority’s barely contained contempt for the policy-making authority of the legislative and executive branches of government, and a notoriously aggressive and sometimes lawless plaintiffs’ bar, Florida earns the ignominious #1 ranking among eight Judicial Hellholes…” said American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. Also high on the list was St. Louis, where “antiquated rules have made it a favorite of personal-injury lawyers shopping for big-money verdicts” resulting in $300 million in awards since 2015. However, recent changes in state government, including a governor in support of changes to the liability system, do hold promise for much-needed reform in the coming year. To read more about ATRA’s “Judicial Hellholes” executive summary and report on the where physicians and defendants fare the worst when it comes to…

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High Court’s Contempt for Lawmakers’ Authority, Lawsuit Rackets Place Florida atop Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ List

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2017 – The American Tort Reform Foundation issued its 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes® report today, naming courts in Florida, California, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana among the nation’s “most unfair” in their handling of civil litigation. “With both this annual report and a year-round website, our Judicial Hellholes program since 2002 has been documenting troubling developments in jurisdictions where civil court judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” began American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. “This year, thanks to a state high court majority’s barely contained contempt for the policy-making authority of the legislative and executive branches of government, and a notoriously aggressive and sometimes lawless plaintiffs’ bar, Florida earns the ignominious #1 ranking among eight Judicial Hellholes, even as authorities have begun to crack down on some of the lawsuit industry’s most obviously fraudulent rackets. “Ranked #2 is perennial hellhole California, where lawmakers, prosecutors and plaintiff-friendly judges inexorably expand civil liability at the expense of businesses, jobseekers and those desperately in need of affordable housing,” Joyce explained. “The good news is the U.S. Supreme Court in June reversed a…

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January 2017 Newsletter

  No false alarm on medical liability issues Responding to a Washington Post article earlier this month that charged advocates of medical liability reform with unnecessarily sounding the alarms on the need for fixes, the HCLA submitted a letter to the editor outlining the burden of the current system and urging passage of proposed patient protection measures. Our nation’s medical liability system is costly and inefficient – with bright spots in states that have proactively addressed the problems. “States like California and Texas have been successful in compensating patients fairly, controlling costs, and increasing access,” the letter explains. “Thirteen years after passing reforms in Texas, 118 counties saw net gains in emergency room physicians – including 53 counties that previously had none.” The letter cites figures that show how replicating those efforts would have an exponential effect on our federal health care costs: “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that $55 billion in federal health savings and $62 billion in deficit reductions could be achieved over 10 years, if the federal government passed reforms like those in California and Texas.” “Lawmakers, policy experts, and the public agree reform is needed. When 75% of claims are meritless, and 33% of the…

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Collateral source set to mark start of tort reform effort

With labor and ethics reform making up the majority of the General Assembly’s first two weeks in session, a few other bills at the top of Republican leadership’s docket may not have grabbed as much attention. However, they could be just as impactful for the state’s business community. Last week, the Senate Government Reform Committee heard testimony on Sen. Ed Emery’s collateral source rule change bill, which would have parties in injury cases present the actual cost of medical care, instead of its value when calculating the damages owed by a defendant. Currently, in a worker’s compensation case, if an assembly line worker gets injured on the line because of a faulty mechanism, the company she works for could pay for her injuries using their medical insurance. But she could also sue the company for negligence and get more money based on the “value” of her injuries as determined by a judge. Under Emery’s proposed rule, the specific monetary amount granted for her injuries would be what she receives. “It allows businesses who are always subject to personal injury lawsuits, to more effectively quantify what their exposure is,” Emery says. “If a defendant is found liable, we know what the…

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Caps on medical malpractice lawsuits signed into law

Limits on monetary damages in medical malpractice lawsuits have been reinstated in Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon signed Senate Bill 239 into law Thursday at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City. The state’s Supreme Court overturned the previous limits three years ago. Since 2005 they had been at $350,000. Commonly known as tort reform, the bill places caps of $400,000 on damages for personal injury and $700,000 for a catastrophic injury – death, paralysis or loss of vision for example – in a medical malpractice lawsuit. It also includes a clause to increase the limits by 1.7 percent each year. Without caps on damages, insurance companies can charge doctors a range of premiums to insure their practice. Nixon said the Supreme Court’s decision created a level of uncertainty. “This decision resulted in a new problem by creating a climate of financial uncertainty for health care providers,” he said. Noneconomic damages, as the bill defines them, include everything except the medical costs and lost wages as a result of the injury. Ravi Johar, an OBGYN at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis and president-elect of the Missouri State Medical Association, joined other doctors and the governor in Jefferson City on Thursday….

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Senate advances medical malpractice priority bill

SB 239, which creates a statutory cause of action for damages against health care providers, has left the Senate and moves to the House for consideration. Bill supporters say the bill will reduce incentives for “frivolous lawsuits.” Senate leaders released a statement saying that the bill will help lower skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates and keep doctors in Missouri. Senate Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said the issue has been a Senate priority, and it will create a better work environment to attract more doctors to the state. “By reinstating caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, we will reduce incentives for these frivolous lawsuits,” said Dempsey. “Overall, it means more accessible health care for all Missourians.” Ten years ago, the General Assembly attempted a reform of the state’s liability system through lowered jury award caps for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases, but the reform was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2012 – removing the caps. “We are now starting to see some of the effects on medical malpractice insurance premiums since the Supreme Court decision as they continue to rise,” said bill sponsor Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla. “We need to support our medical…

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Malpractice Caps in Flux in Florida

Less than 4 months after the Florida Supreme Court struck down the state’s wrongful death non-economic damages cap, the fate of the state’s personal injury medical malpractice award limit may also be in jeopardy. The state’s highest court heard oral arguments in June regarding Myles et al. v. Weingrad, an injury malpractice case that focuses on whether Florida’s $500,000 medical malpractice noneconomic damages cap can be applied retroactively. However, after the court in March ruled that the state’s wrongful death cap was unconstitutional, the plaintiffs in Weingrad now argue the injury limit should be thrown out on constitutional grounds. The personal injury malpractice cap is indeed in danger of being overturned, said Jeff Scott, general counsel for the Florida Medical Association. The FMA is not directly involved in the case. “Given the track record of the (Florida) Supreme Court, one would have to conclude the likelihood of a favorable opinion is slim,” Mr. Scott said in an interview. The case stems from leg surgery performed on Kimberly Ann Miles by Aventura, Fla.–based surgeon Dr. Daniel Weingrad. Ms. Miles claimed the surgery to remove residual melanoma was unnecessary and resulted in ongoing pain. A jury awarded Ms. Miles and her husband…

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Missouri to Revisit Medical Lawsuit Limit

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri lawmakers plan to try again to limit how much money people can receive in medical malpractice lawsuits. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones said the liability limits are a priority for the 2014 session. And Rep. Eric Burlison of Springfield already is promoting a bill. Republican lawmakers want to reinstate a $350,000 limit on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, which was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court in July 2012. The court said the limit violated a common-law right to seek damages for medical malpractice that predated the adoption of a state constitution in 1820. The proposed legislation would abolish that common-law right and instead make medical liability lawsuits subject to state law. A similar bill stalled earlier this year in the Senate.

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MO Lawmakers Relax Volunteers’ Medical Malpractice Liability

Missouri lawmakers voted Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of SB 129, the Volunteer Health Services Act, which relaxes medical malpractice liability for volunteers. “This is going to increase access to health care for thousands of Missourians at no cost to the taxpayer,” Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, who sponsored the bill, told Watchdog. The measure waives civil penalties against volunteers unless there is a “gross deviation from the ordinary standard of care or willful misconduct.” The change means health professionals can donate their services without fear of lawsuits. The cost of liability insurance kept many retired physicians and other health workers from volunteering in their communities, Sater told Watchdog last month. “We just want them to work within the scope of their practice and if they do that and follow the standard of care, which we have in the bill, then they won’t have to fear being sued for some frivolous stuff,” said Sater, a pharmacist by training. The new law also allows health professionals licensed in other states to practice in Missouri as long as they are providing free care. Charitable groups like the Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical rely on out-of-state physicians and nurses to staff their events….

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MO GOP To Bring Back Tort Reform In 2013

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) Missouri lawmakers have their eyes on reinstating liability limits for medical malpractice cases after the state Supreme Court struck down an existing cap on damages last summer. Republicans claim a supermajority when the Legislature meets Wednesday to start the 2013 session, and GOP leaders say restoring the liability limits invalidated by the high court is needed to control health care costs and help keep doctors in Missouri. “The judiciary, like a bunch of termites, has gone to work undermining that necessary tort reform,” said Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. “So we’re going to have to go back and do the heavy lifting all over again.” A significant piece of the Republican effort to curb liability lawsuits was a cap of $350,000 for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases. Before that, Missouri had an inflation-adjusted cap of $579,000 for noneconomic damages against each defendant for each act of negligence. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled 4-3 the 2005 law was unconstitutional. The court’s majority pointed to the state constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states “the right of a trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate.” Because Missourians had a common-law right…

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