Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Good Day for Limited Government; Court Ruling Victims Need Access to Real Jury Trials; the Supreme Court Protected That Right

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Good Day for Limited Government; Court Ruling Victims Need Access to Real Jury Trials; the Supreme Court Protected That Right

Article excerpt

Much will be written about the July 31 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court striking down arbitrary medical liability damages caps in order to ensure that "the right of trial by jury as heretofore enjoyed shall remain inviolate," including "Trial by job creator" )Aug. 2). Indeed, it was a good day for supporters of constitutional rights and limited government.

Patient advocates, constitutionalists and limited government advocates will praise the decision; business interests and insurance companies will decry it. Just hours after the decision, the executive vice president of the Missouri State Medical Association echoed the tired rallying cry of "lawsuit crisis." Some business- and special interest-oriented legislators already plan to amend the Missouri Constitution to limit the right to trial by jury in order to reimpose caps on victims.

The story of this decision is not trial lawyers, or special interest groups or politics. The real story is about five-year-old Naython Watts and other victims.

Naython's mother is Deborah Watts. During pregnancy, Watts was treated at a facility owned by Cox Medical Centers. At 39 weeks, while experiencing cramping and decreased fetal movement, Deborah Watts was seen by a third-year resident. Evidence at trial indicated that the physician did not perform appropriate tests, failed to notify Watts of the significance of decreased fetal movement and failed to perform any further diagnostic monitoring. That doctor's supervisor then signed off on Watts' course of treatment.

The next day, Deborah Watts was admitted to the hospital because of a lack of fetal movement and placed on a monitor, which showed fetal hypoxia and acidosis. The standard of care required an immediate cesarean section delivery, but that did not occur for more than an hour and a half.

Naython was born with catastrophic brain injuries because of a lack of oxygen. Naython will never walk and has difficulty feeding himself. Naython will live his entire life dealing with the pain, suffering, teasing and lost aspects of everyday life most of us enjoy. These are just some of Naython's "non-economic damages."

Prior to 2005, the caps adjusted for inflation and were approximately $579,000. …

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