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.
The Facts of the Case
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.
The family of Ms. Dodson filed a wrongful death medical malpractice action against the doctor, alleging that his negligent medical care was the cause of their loved one’s death. After a trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them $1.8 million in economic damages and $9 million in non-economic damages. Acting pursuant to a state statute limiting non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, the trial judge then reduced the plaintiffs’ non-economic damages award to $350,000.
The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the statute limiting their award, but the appellate court determined that the statute was permissible. Thus, the plaintiffs will be left with their reduced award.
Caps in Washington, D.C. and Maryland Malpractice Cases
Washington, D.C. does not cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. However, Maryland does have its own caps with regard to medical malpractice actions, including those brought under the theory of wrongful death. In these cases, the non-economic damages are limited to $770,000 in 2016. Maryland’s cap increases each year by $15,000. It is important to keep in mind, however, that economic damages, such as lost wages, decrease in earning capacity, and past and future medical expenses, are not affected by the cap.
Have You Suffered Due to a Doctor’s Negligence?
If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of medical malpractice in Maryland or Washington, D.C., you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While damages caps may act to limit your total amount of recovery in Maryland, that will not be the case in Washington, D.C. Even if a cap does apply, a dedicated attorney will be able to maximize the non-capped economic damages portion of your claim, ensuring you receive full and fair compensation if you are successful. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.
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Court Holds City Employee Not Entitled to Immunity as a “Land Owner”, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 1, 2016