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Bill Limiting Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Gets House Approval

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A bill that puts a cap on medical malpractice lawsuit awards passes in the Missouri House of Representatives Wednesday and moves to the Senate.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A bill that puts a cap on medical malpractice lawsuit awards passes in the Missouri House of Representatives Wednesday.

House Bill 1173 is sponsored by local representative Eric Burlison.

It passed 94 to 61 and now heads to the Missouri Senate.

Medical malpractice insurance is a major expense for physicians.

Representative Eric Burlison argues that House Bill 1173 can help lower that cost for Missouri doctors.

The bill, which passed Wednesday in the House, caps the amount for which a patient can sue a doctor in a malpractice lawsuit.

"Without those caps we are going to see physicians leave the state," he said.

The bill caps non-economic damages at 350,000 dollars.

"At the end of the day, we do allow patients to sue for unlimited amounts for the economic damages, it's just capping that pain and suffering level," he said to the House floor.

Opponents argue the legislation can be a disservice for patients who have suffered losses.

"There are egregious examples that I think any one of us individually looking at would say 350,000 dollars is not enough," Representative Stephen Webber said.

Missouri has had caps in place in the past, but a judge threw them out in 2012.

And Burlison believes reinstating the cap is necessary to keep specialists in the state.

"Their insurance premiums are almost double what they normally would be if we don't have caps in place," he said.

It could be the difference between an OB-GYN paying 100,000 dollars per year without the cap versus 50,000 dollars with the cap.

"I actually know an OB-GYN who decided that it wasn't worthwhile anymore to keep his business open when he saw that his premiums were going to go up," Burlison said.

A similar bill was introduced last year, but it failed to pass in the Senate.

Burlison tells KOLR-10 he hopes that by passing it earlier in the session this year it has a better chance of getting that Senate vote.
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