Missouri Would Cap Med Malpractice Awards

     JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A bill that would cap medical malpractice jury awards at $350,000 has passed the Missouri House.
     The bill would replace the caps the state had in place from 2005 to 2012.
     In 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the caps were unconstitutional. The House passed new caps last year, but the effort didn't get through the state Senate.
     The new bill does not cap economic damages, just noneconomic damages.
     Economic damages include lost wages, additional medical costs and living expenses.
     Supporters say noneconomic damages are subjective and arbitrary. They claim the cap is necessary to lower medical costs and to keep doctors in the state.
     Opponents claim that placing an arbitrary limit on awards doesn't take into account the victims of medical negligence. They also claim the cap limits violate citizens' rights to a jury trial, which is the reason why the original caps were thrown out by the state supreme court.
     The bill, largely supported by Missouri's Republican majority, did cause a split in the GOP ranks, with some conservatives voting against it.
     Rep. Jeff Grisamore, R-Lee's Summit, criticized the bill during debate.
     "The mechanics of this bill does not value human life. It devalues it," Grisamore said, according to the Post-Dispatch. "The name of the game for insurance companies is to minimize liability and maximize profits and victims and doctors are caught in the middle."
     The House passed the bill by 94-61 vote. It goes now to the state Senate.
     Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sponsored the bill.