The Missouri House has endorsed reinstating a medical malpractice cap on damages that was originally passed in 2005, but struck down by the state’s Supreme Court last year.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield), would put a $350,000 limit on non-economic damages. “Without these limits, Missouri’s health care industry is subject to erratic and excessive jury awards that will raise the cost of care,” Burlison said.

During the last few years, Supreme Courts in several states have heard challenges to caps on medical malpractice damages for non-economic injuries, such as pain and suffering. These sorts of caps on damages have been ruled unconstitutional in several states based on the fact that the caps deprive a person of the constitutional right to have the jury make a decision.

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Burlison’s solution to solving the issue of unconstitutionality is to put the right to sue for malpractice into statutory law, rather than common law.

Since the original cap was put in place in 2005, “the cost for health insurance – medical malpractice premiums – have gone down and the volume of lawsuits have gone down, until this year when the caps were thrown out by the courts,” Burlinson pointed out during the House debate on the issue.

Claims against doctors had dropped about 24% during the time period the cap was implemented, a Missouri Foundation for Health analysis showed. Burlison also noted that the state had been gaining physicians due to the cap.

The Missouri House passed the bill to reinstate the malpractice cap by a 93-62 vote, and it is now headed to the state Senate.