February 10, 2006
Impact of Tort Reform: Anecdotes in Missouri
The KC Star piece has some interesting bits.
With its cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, the legislation has discouraged pursuit of otherwise worthy cases, particularly on behalf of the very young and the very old, plaintiffs’ lawyers say.
Because they’re not wage earners and typically haven’t lost income as a result of an accident, often the sole compensation of the very old and the very young when they’re injured is noneconomic damages — or damages for pain and suffering.
The law also substantially modified joint and several liability in Missouri:
Now plaintiffs can pursue a defendant for 100 percent of their damages only if the defendant was found to be more than 50 percent at fault. Defendants found less than 51 percent at fault are liable only for their percentage of blame.
* * *
The old law undoubtedly influenced the decision of drug makers Eli Lilly and Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. to settle out of court hundreds of cases filed against them several years ago in Kansas City after pharmacist Robert Courtney pleaded guilty to diluting their cancer medications. The suits alleged that the companies knew or should have known that Courtney was watering down their drugs but failed to stop him.
Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb had to decide whether to risk being found even 1 percent at fault. Given that the jury assessed $2.2 billion in damages against Courtney in the one case that went to trial, it was a chance the companies decided they could not take. Ultimately they settled with the plaintiffs for $72.1 million.
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