On July 31, 2012, the Supreme Court of Missouri decided the case of Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers et. al. Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci represented the Watts family.
The defendant health care providers failed to provide safe prenatal medical care and a timely delivery, and as result caused our client to be born with brain damage and in permanent need of lifelong care.
After a trial, the jury found the defendant health care providers committed medical malpractice and returned a verdict in favor of our client and awarded $1.45 million in non-economic damages and $3.371 million in future medical damages. The trial court entered a judgment reducing the non-economic damages to $350,000 as was then required by Missouri law (specifically section 538.210 of the Missouri statutes).
We did not think the law that required the trial court to disregard the jury finding and reduce non-economic damages was fair or constitutional. We appealed the judgment on several grounds, including the reduction of non-economic damages. The Supreme Court of Missouri ruled in our client’s favor, and held the $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases violated the Missouri Constitution. Specifically, the Court held that the non-economic damages cap was “unconstitutional to the extent that it infringes on the jury’s constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party….” The Court held the statute violates “the right to trial by jury guaranteed by article I, section 22(a) of the Missouri Constitution.”
This decision will have an immediate and broad impact across Missouri, granting victims of medical malpractice new protections. We applaud the Supreme Court of Missouri for making the right decision. We hope and believe that the public will be made safer by this decision. Now health care providers will be held fully accountable for unsafe treatment, and the victims can receive full compensation for the harms they suffer.
I know this is a long post, but I am very proud to have tried this case with Roger Johnson. I am even more proud to live in a country where we have the right to seek redress for our grievances in a court of law. Yesterday my faith in our American Civil Justice system was reinforced.
I know today tort reformers and election day alarmists will point to this decision to try and sway votes - but the truth is yesterday was a victory for the people. I hope and pray that no one who reads this will need the services of my firm or other firms who fight for victims of malpractice. I hope that medical providers begin practicing safer medicine, and insurance companies begin to be more reasonable in the compensation they offer to settle those claims; but since unsafe medical practices continue, and insurance companies fail to be reasonable, this case encourages us all that in a courtroom (if it comes to that) Justice can once again be found.
Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci
510 West 6th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64801
866-836-0100 toll free