Earlier this month, an appellate court in Missouri issued a written opinion illustrating how a state’s statute limiting non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases can act to significantly limit a plaintiff’s recovery amount. In the case, Dodson v. Ferrara, the plaintiffs were initially awarded approximately $1.8 million in economic damages and $9 million in non-economic damages after the loss of their loved one. However, due to the state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, the court reduced the non-economic portion of the award from $9 million to just $350,000.
Ms. Dodson went to the hospital complaining of shortness of breath. Upon arrival, she was initially diagnosed with bronchitis, and a stress echocardiogram was ordered. The results of that test indicated that there might be an abnormality with her heart, so the attending physician ordered a heart catheterization to further investigate.
The defendant, Dr. Ferrara, performed the catheterization. However, during the process, Ms. Dodson’s left main coronary artery was severed, cutting off blood flow to vital portions of her body. The doctor called for assistance. However, it was not until 30 minutes had passed that doctors arrived. They then unsuccessfully attempted to put a stent in the artery. From there, Ms. Dodson was transported to the operating room for emergency surgery. However, once there, the surgery to repair the damaged artery was unsuccessful, and she died as a result.