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As reported here, the Missouri Supreme Court, in Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers declared that caps on medical malpractice cases are unconstitutional. So, if you have a medical malpractice case in Missouri, what does that mean for you?

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First, if your case involves a death, it is not clear whether the limitation on damages is still in effect in those cases. In April, 2012, the same Court upheld caps applied in a medical malpractice wrongful death case. That case, /Sanders v. Ahmed was actually decided based on the pre-2005 law on medical malpractice caps. However, that decision may be read as standing separate from the Watts decision. In short, whether caps apply in wrongful death medical malpractice cases is still an open question.

Second, in cases involving injuries, but not death, the Watts decision is unequivocal. Caps on the amount of damages that a jury can award on cases that existed under the common law, such as medical malpractice claims for injuries, are unconstitutional. Without an amendment to the Missouri Constitution, legislation seeking to impose such limits will not be upheld.

Third, for active cases, and cases yet to be filed, a Court cannot impose a limit on the damages awarded for non-economic injuries, such as pain and suffering. Under the law declared unconstitutional, the amount of those damages was limited to $350,000. While that may seem like a lot of money, in situations involving life long injury and disability, it is readily apparent that the limitation was crippling. Children injured a birth, who would deal with life-long disability, were not fully compensated. Now, that restriction is lifted.

Fourth, if you have had a medical malpractice case resolved under the old law, whether it resulted in a judgment or a settlement, you won’t be able to go back and re-open those cases to achieve a bigger settlement or verdict. If the decision wasn’t appealed, then the case is final and you won’t be able to reopen it.

Obviously, the actual monetary affect on a particular case is going to vary. If you have a current medical malpractice case you should consult with your attorney about the impact. If you believe that you or a loved one was injured as a result of medical malpractice and would like to discuss your case, please call 1-800-567-8176 for a consultation.

A federal judge in Charleston, West Virginia has set the first Bard vaginal mesh case for trial next February, reports Bloomberg News.

The U.S. FDA issued a report last year finding that vaginal mesh products should be classified as posing a high risk to patients based on its review of side-effect reports. The mesh products are inserted vaginally and used to stop pelvic organs from bulging, called prolapse. They are also used in treating incontinence.

If you think you have been injured by a vaginal mesh product, whether manufactured by Bard, Johnson & Johnson or others, please contact our office to discuss a possible claim.

At least one person has died and dozens were injured when a beer garden tent collapsed in a storm Saturday afternoon, reports the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

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A line of strong storms passed through St. Louis just before 4pm. Kilroy’s bar, south of Busch Stadium at 720 South Seventh Avenue had set up the tent as a beer garden. Reports indicate that the tent was permitted and inspected, but the investigation continues.

If you or a loved one was injured in this incident, please call or contact us at hendricksonlaw.com to discuss possible claims.

Bloomberg and other sources are reporting that Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay the U.S. $1 billion to settle the U.S. Attorney’s marketing probe. Read the full report here. Criminal please still may come in this case.

Risperdal was once J&J’s biggest selling drug. It was an anti-psychotic drug approved for use in psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. J&J began marketing it for off-label uses, such as bipolar disorder, dementia, mood and anxiety disorders and other unapproved uses.

The Kansas City Star is reporting on the changes in recent Federal regulations that prohibit journalists and others from using information contained in public databases to identify physicians with dozens of instances of medical malpractice and violations of drug regulations. You can read the full story here.

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The Star describes a physician, known only as “Practitioner 222117″ who may be the most frequently disciplined doctor in America. I’m jaded. Doing what I do, I’ve seen many instances of hospitals and practices covering up bad doctors. I thought I couldn’t be shocked anymore. This shocked me:

According to the Star’s review of the Federal database, Practitioner 222117, in just a 4 year span from 2002 through 2006, had his (or her) license suspended or revoked in 20 states and the District of Columbia! Two professional societies took away his memberships. The Department of Health and Human Services banned the doctor from billing Medicare and Medicaid. And the Drug Enforcement Administration revoked the doctor’s permit to prescribe controlled drugs. For most of that time, his home base was Missouri.

And yet, federal regulations prohibit the Star from cross-checking records and identifying this “doctor.”

Other physicians which reporters are no longer allowed to identify:

A surgeon who lost or settled 247 malpractice cases in California in the 1990s.

A doctor who had drug or alcohol problems and has been in and out of trouble since 1991 with hospitals and licensing boards in at least 5 states.

A Missouri doctor whose staff privileges were suspended or reduced by hospitals 7 times and voluntarily surrendered hospital privileges on 4 other occasions.

And HHS is publishing rules to prohibit anyone from using their database to identify and out these people? Are you kidding me?

This is why I do what I do. At least on a case by case basis, I can help someone get justice.

/STLMedical Malpractice.com

HendricksonLaw.com

Hot Coffee, The Movie is a documentary entry in this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Hot Coffee is the story everyone thinks they know about crazy “runaway” juries awarding huge sums of money when people do stupid things and hurt themselves.

Well, that version of events was bought and paid for by a massive public relations campaign just like the one the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is currently running to try to get the public to buy into “reforming” our justice system. The problem is, this version of events, like all great lies, is founded on only a grain of truth. Stella Lieback, a 79 year old woman who, in 1992, spilled a cup of McDonald’s scalding coffee in her lap causing severe third degree burns. What isn’t usually talked about is the years of surgery and medical treatment Stella endured. What’s never discussed is the fact that the size of the jury’s verdict reflected their outrage when they learned that McDonald’s had been sued numerous times over severe burns caused by their coffee and that despite the known danger, they continued to serve their coffee at a temperature that could not be consumed by most individuals because by keeping it scalding hot, they could sell it longer without having to brew fresh pots of coffee. The temperature of the coffee was mandated by McDonald’s corporate offices in order to save a few cents.

Hot Coffee is an important piece of documentary film, telling not only the story of Stella Lieback, but others who have been destroyed by the public relations campaigns to limit your access to the Courts.

Today the 112th Congress was sworn in and the new Republican Majority ceremoniously conducted a reading of the U.S. Constitution. Hopefully, they listened when they read the 7th Amendment right to trial by jury. If they hold the Constitution as dear as they claim they do, then they will oppose any attempts to limit your right to trial by jury, whether it is imposing caps on lawsuits or punitive damages. A jury of your neighbors will know what is right. That’s what our founding father’s wrote into the Constitution.

Missouri’s doctors are policed by the Board of Healing Arts. And Missouri’s Board is among the most lax in disciplining physicians, according to a recent St. Louis Post Dispatch article, Missouri Secretive, Lax on Doctor Discipline. The Post recounts a story all too familiar to those of us who spend our professional lives prosecuting medical negligence actions: doctors who perform the wrong surgery, who falsify records to cover it up and do so again and again, simply aren’t subject to any meaningful discipline. Suspension of a doctor’s license in Missouri is almost never done, and then usually only when another state’s board has suspended the doctor’s license to practice.

In another article, “Deviant Doctor got OK to Work in Bootheel” the Post describes a truly horrendous situation in which a physician, already on probation for improperly dispensing prescriptions, merely had his probation lengthened after he admitted to the board that he was having improper sexual contact with his patients. It was not until the physician, Martin McDonald, was charged with sexual abuse by Dunklin County prosecutors did the Board take action to suspend his license.

Missouri patients deserve real governmental oversight of all professions, but particularly those whose actions can cause grave harm and death. The process of “disciplining” doctors is long and complicated and allows physicians with known problems to continue to put their patients at risk, with no warning to the patients or the community.

The Illinois Supreme Court has declared legislation imposing a limit, or “cap,” on the amount that a jury can award to the victims of medical malpractice is unconstitutional. In Lebron v Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the Court held that “statutory caps violate the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution and declared the entire Act invalid.”The case represents a major victory for civil justice. By declaring that a legislature cannot substitute its judgment for that of a jury of citizens, the Illinois Supreme Court has joined a growing number of state supreme courts who have deemed such legislation unconstitutional, or otherwise invalidated such acts.In order to understand what this decision means, it is important to understand what so-called “tort reform” acts “cap.” These acts place a limit, or cap, on what a jury can award in any case for non-monetary damages. These are damages for loss of a normal life, pain and suffering. By placing a uniform limit on these damages, legislatures have, in effect, said that those who are harmed the most should not receive compensation for their losses. The Lebron case is a perfect example:The Lebrons filed suit for injuries their child received during delivery, including severe brain injury, cerebral palsy and cognitive mental impairment. Because of the negligence of the doctor and nurses involved, Abigaile Lebron will never develop normally and will be fed by tube for the rest of her life. And Abigaile is exactly the type of victim of medical malpractice who deserves compensation and, due to tort reform, is exactly the type of patient who is most affected by caps. Because caps act to limit only non-monetary damages, it is the young, the old and those who have low earnings who are most affected by caps. If a 50 year old banker making $250,000 a year is left in the same condition as a 1 year old, that 50 year old banker will be able to show earnings losses in the millions of dollars, in addition to past and future medical bills. But, if the same thing happens to an infant, that infant has no earning history, so it is difficult or impossible to establish those lost earnings. Thus, with caps in place, hospitals and doctors consistently devalue loss of life and injury to the very young and the very old.The Illinois Supreme Court made the right, and just, decision.

After your attorney has filed a lawsuit for you, you’ll undoubtedly hear the term “discovery.” What is “discovery?”Discovery is the phase of the litigation before trial. This is when both sides try to “discover” everything they need to about the other side’s case–how the negligence occurred, how the plaintiff was injured, the nature and extent of the injuries, extent of wage loss, defenses etc. Whether your case is a simple personal injury suit involving an auto accident, or a more complex case involving medical malpractice or product liability, the basic process is similar, involving the same steps.Usually, the first thing that will occur is that the attorneys for all parties will exchange written discovery.Written discovery will usually consist of one or more of all the following:Interrogatories: These are written questions that you and your attorney will answer together. Your attorney will usually send these questions to you or have you come into the office to review them. These questions are answered under oath and under penalty of perjury. Usually, but no always, these questions will ask about basic information such as identity of your medical care providers, amounts of your bills, whether you’ve given any statements, etc.Requests for Documents: Fairly self explanatory. These are requests for your to produce documents such as medical records, tax returns and pay stubs to prove lost income, medical authorizations to allow the defense to gather their own copies of your medical records, and things like photos and Xrays.Requests to Admit: These are written statements which a party must admit or deny. If the party admits the statement, then the requesting party is relieved of having to prove this statement at trial and the answer can merely be submitted to the jury. Requests to admit are often used to narrow the issues in a case and establish basic facts.Usually the next stage of discovery involves depositions. A deposition is a question and answer interview conducted by the other party’s lawyer. Testimony is taken and recorded by a court reported and transcribed into a booklet for later use. Depending on your jurisdiction, this testimony may be directly admissible in court. A deposition may be the only testimony you give in a case and it is important that you are properly prepared to answer the type of questions that will likely be asked.In many cases, the attorney’s will produce expert witnesses to give testimony on certain aspects of your case. The testimony of a treating doctor as to how your injury happened and the type of medical care you received to treat it is one type of expert testimony. In some cases, you may have expert testimony on things such as accident reconstruction or product defects. In a medical malpractice case doctors or other health care providers will give testimony as to how the defendant was negligent.These are the basic steps of the discovery process.If you are in need of an attorney for a personal injury, auto accident, medical malpractice, wrongful death or product liability case, please call Todd N. Hendrickson for a free consultation.