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 professionals who provide Missourians the quality care they deserve.”

SB 239 seeks to set a new cap in lawsuits claiming damages for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, which bill supporters said are difficult to quantify. The bill reinstates caps within a two-tiered system which allow extra compensation for people with more serious injuries. The bill sets the cap for personal injury cases at $400,000 and for catastrophic personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, the cap for non-economic damages will be at $700,000.

“Doctors need certainty going forward,” said Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin. “Ultimately, changes in the law will attract more insurance providers to offer competitive liability insurance to doctors and care providers in Missouri.”

Supporters contend the bill puts Missouri one step closer to having better access to quality healthcare at lower costs. Opponents say the bill limits an individual’s ability to seek justice through the court system and see the measure as a way to tie the hands of juries and judges.

Senators passed the compromise version of the language after a brief debate.

The measure now moves to the House.