St. Louis Public Radio News
6:11 pm
Thu January 14, 2010

Mo. Supreme Court hears medical malpractice case

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri Supreme Court today heard arguments regarding how much money people can be awarded in medical malpractice cases.

In 2005, James and Mary Klotz won a lawsuit against a St. Louis area hospital, after James contracted a staph infection while receiving a pacemaker.

But a law passed in Missouri the same year allows caps to be placed retroactively on non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits, and the amount of non-economic damages awarded to Mary Klotz was eventually reduced to zero.

Louis Bograd, the Klotz' attorney, contended that the retroactive cap is unconstitutional.

But Tad Eckenrode, attorney for the hospital, disagreed.

"This legislation was simply our legislature's attempts to find a way to make the provision of health care more affordable and more accessible for all Missourians," Eckenrode said.

Chief Justice Ray Price, however, had questions of his own regarding the law's constitutionality. Price used a hypothetical situation to make his point.

"The state of Missouri has a bridge right across the Missouri River...should that bridge fall as it did in Minnesota, 50 people in their cars perish, could the state the next day pass a statute saying, 'we're going to cap their damages at a hundred dollars, because we just don't want to pay them?'" Price asked.

Eckenrode responded, "No, I don't believe you could."

"Why could they not? What's the difference between that and what happened here?" Price asked again.

The Missouri Supreme Court will issue its ruling at a later date.