Tort reform ruling is red meat for Missouri Republicans
The Kansas City Star
The Missouri Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits may be good law, but it wasn’t great timing.
The decision will serve as red meat for Republicans and ultra-conservatives. (Which now are all but synonymous in Missouri.) They’ll use it against Gov. Jay Nixon, who is running for re-election with the help of big donations from trial attorneys. They’ll use it against Claire McCaskill, knocking her for refusing to just support “common sense” health care reform measures like “tort reform.” (Though the effectiveness of capping malpractice awards is questionable.)
Most of all, they’ll use it to drum up support for a November ballot proposition which gives the Missouri governor a bigger role in selecting Supreme Court and appeals judges. *Just look at what those activist Supreme Court judges, handpicked by the trial attorneys, have done now. *(Their argument, not mine.)
Republicans are vowing to pass legislation this session reinstating the caps, which would no doubt result in a new round of legal challenges.
Medical malpractice reform is a tricky issue. Doctors shouldn’t have to practice under constant threat of having their practices and their reputations ruined by a lawsuit. On the other hand, negligence and incompetence can have devastating consequences for patients.
The Affordable Care Act offers states grant money to embark on efforts to find alternatives to costly malpractice litigation. One idea is a certificate of merit program, which require experts to certify that a case has merit before it goes to trial. Another idea is health courts, in which a panel of medical experts would hear a case, rather than a jury.
If Missouri leaders really wanted to solve this problem, they would apply for one of those grants. But that would mean engaging with the dreaded “Obamacare” law, so they probably won’t.