Limitation on Medical Malpractice Damages Highlights Complexities in Law

Posted by Marianne C. LeBlanc

Meet Marianne

Marianne is a trial attorney with over two decades of experience in representing clients and a member of BBO and served on the Regulators Subcommittee of the SJC Committee on Lawyer Well-Being. With record-setting verdicts in MA, Marianne’s advocacy skills draw on her commitment to making a difference both for clients and the community at large. Meet Marianne

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The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld a recovery cap on medical malpractice verdicts in that state. The ruling confirmed the constitutionality of legislation drafted in 2015 limiting recovery in medical malpractice lawsuits to $400,000 in non-economic damages for personal injury and $700,000 for cases of catastrophic personal injury. The Court’s ruling was understandably met by harsh criticism from the Missouri plaintiffs’ bar, which pointed out that the court was interfering with Missouri citizens’ rights to a trial by jury.

All laws limiting a person’s rights to the justice system are met with scrutiny, but the Missouri statute is not all that foreign a concept for Massachusetts practitioners familiar with medical malpractice law. In this Commonwealth, M.G.L. c. 231 s 60H limits damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases to $500,000 unless the jury determines that “there is a substantial or permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function or substantial disfigurement, or other special circumstance…”

Section 60H is one of the many pieces of legislation that complicates medical malpractice claims in Massachusetts and confuses the path to recovery for injured victims of negligent medical care. G. L. c. 231 s 60L requires that a claimant give notice to a medical provider before filing a lawsuit, and s 60B requires that plaintiffs appear, in certain circumstances, before a medical malpractice tribunal to make an initial showing that the facts of a medical malpractice case are egregious enough to warrant judicial inquiry. In addition, the doctrine of peer review in Massachusetts limits an injured person’s ability to learn about a medical provider’s investigation into poor medical care by making privileged any conversation had or document created during a hospital or clinician’s investigation into an incident. Because many hospitals, clinics, and medical professional organizations are classified as non-profit entities in Massachusetts, they are also subject to a damages cap pursuant to G.L. c. 231 s 85K, which limits a non-profit organization’s liability to $100,000 in most cases.

In addition to the complexities posed by legislation in the medical malpractice field, medical malpractice cases often involve complicated science and almost always require the support of expert testimony. Proving medical malpractice cases often involves a substantial amount of discovery with significant depositions of treating doctors, nurses and other hospital staff. These cases can take a long time to investigate and years to prosecute.

SUGARMAN’s experienced team of personal injury attorneys have handled many medical malpractice claims.  We understand the nuances of medical malpractice law. If you or someone you know has been the victim of negligent medical care, call (617) 542-1000 today to speak to a SUGARMAN partner about your options or email us at info@sugarman.com.