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Election Suggests Malpractice Damage Cap Debate Not Over Yet

Quality of health care delivery proved to be a big issue in the just-ended off-year election. In some ways it might be considered a perennial favorite — one of those things that everyone talks about but which no one is quite sure how to resolve in order to improve conditions.

While Missouri voters didn’t have anything on the ballot addressing the matter this election, California voters did. In that state, Proposition 46 was a hotly contested issue. The measure called for raising a 35-year-old cap on possible noneconomic damages medical malpractice awards from $250,000 to $1.1 million. Voters rejected the proposal, but supporters say the issue will come around again.

Caps on damages in medical malpractice cases have been a big issue in Missouri, too. We posted about it just last week and we also presented an article about the mixed effects of caps on litigation.

The issue made headlines again a couple of months ago. As The Kansas City Star reported, the Missouri Supreme Court held unanimously that legislative efforts to cap some punitive damages are unconstitutional because they take the decisions for such claims out of the hands of juries.

Few would disagree that assuring the highest quality of medical care isn’t important. Every time we turn to doctors and hospitals for treatment of our ills, we are relinquishing control of our very lives into their hands. We are relying on the expertise and skill of the care givers and the facilities they work in to meet accepted standards of medical care.

If they are negligent in that regard, diseases go undiagnosed or errors in treatment can occur, many with fatal consequences. Victims of such mistakes should know they have a right to seek compensation for the damages they suffer, even if lawmakers seek to impose limits.

Source:, “Voters nix California healthcare initiatives, approve measures in other states,” Adam Rubenfire, Nov. 5, 2014