Tort Reform Setbacks

In the space of just two days two state supreme courts have issued rulings that signal an ongoing trend by the plaintiffs’ bar to erode damage caps. Yesterday the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that state caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases cannot be applied retroactively. A 2005 state law had capped noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases at $350,000. The decision came just a day after the Georgia Supreme Court, in a unanimous 7-0 ruling, found a state law limiting damages awarded for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases to be unconstitutional. The St Louis Business Journal reports that the Missouri court stopped short of declaring the caps themselves unconstitutional but mentioned the Georgia action in a footnote in the Missouri ruling. For more on the Georgia ruling check out the Fulton County Daily Report via law.com. The rulings follow last month’s decision by the Illinois Supreme Court to strike down a state law capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Check out I.I.I. information on medical malpractice.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) has released its annual study ranking the best and worst state liability systems across the country. For the fourth year running, West Virginia’s legal climate ranked as the worst in the country. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and California rounded out the bottom five states. The states with the best legal climates are Delaware, North Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana and Iowa. Two-thirds or 67 percent of the 1,482 corporate lawyers and executives surveyed say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, such as where to locate or expand their businesses. That’s up 10 percent from just three years ago. Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on litigiousness.

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