IN THE COURTS
MISSOURI COURT DISMISSES MESH CASE FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION
On June 19, 2019, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri held that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over 99 plaintiffs’ claims because there was no connection between the plaintiffs and Missouri. The defendants were not “at home” in Missouri, nor were 96 of the 99 plaintiffs. The court properly relied on recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent and found that the plaintiffs, even if they were injured, were not injured by any activity committed by the defendant in Missouri.
The complaint was originally filed in the City of St. Louis Circuit Court but was removed to Missouri federal court by defendants.
NORTH DAKOTA SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS $500,000 NONECONOMIC DAMAGE LIMIT
In April 2019, the Supreme Court of North Dakota overruled a district court that found the state’s $500,000 limit on noneconomic damages to be unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court compared the legislative limit to a previous limit on medical malpractice liability that had been found unconstitutional but distinguished the new law because it did not limit a person’s economic damages. The previous court was worried about limiting the amount a plaintiff could recover to less than what was required to satisfy their medical bills, which is not an issue if there is no limit on economic damages.
The Court found convincing the fact that the limit was put in place at the recommendation of a task force that was created to improve the health care system. The goals of the task force were to (1) increase access; (2) control costs; and (3) to maintain or increase quality of health care in the state. The Ccourt concluded that there was a close correspondence between the damages limit and the legitimate legislative goal of improving the health care system such that the law was not unconstitutional.
These limits protect access to healthcare and ensure that affordable medical liability insurance is available to doctors. Placing reasonable constraints on medical liability reduce and stabilize medical liability insurance rates, improve access to critical specialists for local residents, and lessen the incentive to engage in costly defensive medicine. Statutory limits on the subjective and unpredictable portion of an award also make it easier for parties to reach fair settlements.
SOUTH DAKOTA SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO EXPAND “BAD FAITH” LIABILITY FOR INSURERS
In September 2019, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that liability for insurance bad faith requires a showing of an insurer’s knowledge or reckless disregard of the lack of a reasonable basis for denial of a claim. The Court rejected a more expansive view of the state’s bad faith law put forth by the plaintiff. It stated, “[s]uch an expansion of the bad faith doctrine is not supported by our case law or the facts before the Court.”
An employee who was denied workers’ comp benefits brought a bad faith action against her employer’s insurer, alleging the insurer pursued a frivolous appeal of a state agency’s benefits decision to avoid paying benefits.