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Judge has strong words for Mississippi cap on malpractice damages

After years of political and public debate, Mississippi decided to limit non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to $500,000. That is the highest amount a plaintiff can be awarded by a jury for injuries such as pain and suffering.

Economic damages, however, are not limited by Mississippi law. Those damages include the lost wages a person would have otherwise earned if the injury hadn't occurred. The cost of medical expenses is also included in economic damages. But what about a case that involves the tragic death of a child, or the death of a person who wouldn't earn much money otherwise?

In other words, if a family is faced with the real and painful injury of losing a loved one, should the amount of $500,000 be the limit a negligent party has to pay? A federal judge in Mississippi doesn't think so.

The judge decided to uphold the $500,000 cap, but he also had some strong words in disapproval of the law.

He said that in Mississippi, "one's suffering at the hands of a health care provider is worth no more than half a million dollars, no matter how egregious, and no matter if your suffering leads to your death, your unborn child's death, and leaves your children orphans. This is offensive."

The judge was referring to the case of a mother who didn't receive proper medical care when she went to a Choctaw Health Center emergency room. The woman and her unborn child later died at a Jackson hospital, and the judge decided to award the family $500,000 for each of the deaths.

He also said that it was unlikely that the Mississippi Supreme Court would find the non-economic damages cap unconstitutional, so he upheld the cap.

Other Mississippi residents who have been injured by a doctor's negligence should be aware that legal remedies may be available. Until the law changes in our state, a cap on damages for pain and suffering remains in place, but that compensation can make a world of difference in an already devastating situation.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Federal Judge Criticizes But Upholds Mississippi Damages Cap," Jack Elliot, Jr., June 24, 2013

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