Malpractice/Personal Injury Awards
This week, the Senate continued to champion for bringing more qualified healthcare providers to our state. One thing that has kept some doctors and other professionals away is the increasing number of frivolous lawsuits and overblown settlements in some malpractice/personal injury cases.
Senate Bill 237 would modify definitions of “employee” and “physician employee” in actions against health care providers for personal injury or death. This bill returns the law to the intention of the 2005 tort reform legislation that the Missouri Supreme Court broadened. In 2005, the General Assembly passed legislation that limited the liability of hospitals when the defendant was not an employee of the hospital. However, a court ruling in 2014, Jefferson v. Missouri Baptist, greatly expanded liability exposure. The Court applied a broader standard for the definition of employee, meaning patients would now be allowed to sue not only individual doctors and their practices, but also the hospital where the procedure was performed, even if the physician was not an actual employee of that hospital.
Expanded and unnecessary liability increases premiums, which drives up the cost of health care for both patients and businesses. In addition, it increases malpractice insurance premiums for healthcare professionals to the point of being unaffordable. Senate Bill 237 would fix the drafting error and definition of employee and restores the language to the original intent as defined in the 2005 legislation, before being reinterpreted by the courts. It limits liability to the responsible party for malpractice, rather than the party with the deepest pockets. By limiting malpractice liability to the party that is responsible for malpractice, we bring stability and clarity to malpractice insurance and help keep health care costs down for every Missourian.
Always feel free to contact me throughout the year with any comments, questions, or issues by calling my office at (573) 751-5713 or by visiting my website at www.senate.mo.gov/brown.
Thank you for reading this and for your participation in state government.