Fact Sheet: Cases Where "Caps" Have Been Held Unconstitutional (2011)

 

WHERE “CAPS” HAVE BEEN HELD UNCONSTITUTIONAL

* Alabama – Smith v. Schulte, 671 So.2d 1334 (Ala. 1995) (per curiam) ($1 million cap in wrongful death cases against health care providers violates both equal protection and the right to jury trial); Henderson v. Alabama Power Co., 627 So.2d 878 (Ala. 1993) ($250,000 punitive damage cap violates right to jury trial); Moore v. Mobile Infirmary Assoc., 592 So.2d 156, 158 (Ala. 1991) ($400,000 non-economic damage cap in medical malpractice cases violates jury trial and equal protection guarantees).
 
* Florida – Smith v. Dep’t of Ins., 507 So.2d 1080, 1089-89 (Fla. 1987) (per curiam) ($450,000 cap on non-economic damages recoverable in actions for personal injury violates open courts provision).
 
* Georgia – Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt, 691 S.E.2d 218 (Ga. 2010) (legislated cap on non-economic damages enacted as part of Georgia’s “Tort Reform Act of 2005” violates State constitution’s guarantee that “[t]he right to trial by jury shall remain inviolate”).
 
* Illinois – Lebron, a Minor v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, 930 N.E.2d 895 (Ill. 2010) (limitations on non-economic damages violate the constitutional separation of powers); Best v. Taylor Machine Works, 689 N.E.2d 1057 (Ill. 1997) ($500,000 cap on non-economic damages was a legislative remittitur, in violation of the separation of powers doctrine, and constituted impermissible special legislation); Wright v. Central Du Page Hosp. Ass’n, 347 N.E.2d 736 (Ill. 1976) ($500,000 cap unconstitutional as denial of equal protection).
 
* Kansas – Mahomes-Vinson v. U.S., 751 F. Supp. 913 (D. Kan. 1990) ($1 million overall damage cap and $250,000 non-economic damage cap violate jury trial right); Kansas Malpractice Victims Coalition v. Bell, 757 P.2d 251 (Kan. 1988), overruled in part by Bair v. Peck, 811 P.2d 1176 (Kan. 1991) (medical malpractice damage caps violate jury trial and due process rights and constitute preestablished remittitur).
 
* Louisiana – Oliver v. Magnolia Clinic, WL 4703880 (La. 2010) (Louisiana Medical Malpractice Act, which capped general damages at $500,000, ruled unconstitutional); Chamberlain v. State, 624 So.2d 874, 988 (La. 1993), superceded by La. Const. Art. XII, Section 10(c) ($500,000 ceiling on general damages recoverable in a personal injury suit against State violates right to remedy where sovereign immunity has been waived).
 
* Missouri – Klotz v. St. Anthony’s Medical Center, 311 S.W.3d 752 (Mo. 2010) (in limited decision, application of new non-economic damages cap to causes of action filed after August 28, 2005 violates State constitutional prohibition on retrospective laws).
 
* New Hampshire – Brannigan v. Usitalo, 587 A.2d 1232, 1237 (N.H. 1991) ($875,000 limitation on non-economic damages recoverable in actions for personal injury violates equal protection); Carson v. Mauer, 424 A.2d 825, 836-38 (N.H. 1980) ($250,000 non-economic damage cap in medical malpractice cases violates equal protection).
 
* New Mexico – Richardson v. Carnegie Library Restaurant, Inc., 763 P.2d 1153, 1164 (N.M. 1989) ($50,000 damage cap in dramshop act violates equal protection); Trujillo v. City of Albuquerque, 125 N.M. 721, 733 (N.M. 1998) (New Mexico Tort Claims Act’s cap invalidated because it does not serve an important government interest).
 
* North Dakota – Arneson v. Olson, 270 N.W.2d 125, 135-36 (N.D. 1979) ($300,000 limit on damages recoverable in medical malpractice actions violates state and federal equal protection guarantees).
 
* Ohio – State ex rel. Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers v. Sheward 86 Ohio St.3d 451 (Ohio 1999) ($250,000 non-economic damages cap and $250,000 punitive damages cap violate separation of powers); Zoppo v. Homestead Ins. Co., 71 Ohio St.3d 552 (1994) (caps violate right to jury trial); Morris v. Savoy, 576 N.E.2d 765 (Ohio 1991) ($200,000 cap on malpractice general damages struck down on state due process grounds); Jeanne v. Hawkes Hosp. of Mt. Carmel, 598 N.E.2d 1174
(Ohio 1991) ($200,000 cap on malpractice general damages struck down on equal protection grounds); Duren v. Suburban Community Hosp., 495 N.E.2d 51 (1985) (limit on survivorship claim damages of $200,000 unconstitutional under both State and Federal Constitution).
 
* Oregon – Lakin v. Senco Products, Inc., 329 Ore. 62 (1999) ($500,000 cap on non-economic damages in personal injury and wrongful death actions violates jury trial right).
 
* South Carolina – Hanvey v. Oconee Memorial Hosp., 416 S.E.2d 623 (S.C. 1992) (statute limiting hospital’s immunity to $100,000 when other charities had $200,000 limit violates equal protection).
 
* South Dakota – Knowles v. United States, 544 N.W.2d 183 (S.D. 1996) ($1 million medical malpractice compensatory damage cap violates substantive due process).
 
* Texas – Lucas v. United States, 757 S.W.2d 687, 690-92 (Tex. 1988) ($500,000 cap for damages in medical malpractice actions violates State’s open courts guarantee); Waggoner v. Presbyterian Medical Center, 647 F. Supp. 1102 (N.D. Tex. 1986) ($500,000 cap on medical malpractice recoveries violates the equal protection clauses of both the State and Federal Constitutions and the open courts guarantee of the State Constitution); Baptist Hosp. of Southeast Texas, Inc. v. Baber, 672 S.W.2d 296 (Tex. 1984) ($500,000 cap on hospital’s malpractice liability violates equal protection).
 
* Utah – Condemarin v. University Hosp., 775 P.2d 349, 364, 366 (Utah 1989) ($100,000 medical malpractice liability limit for state hospitals violates jury trial right).
 
* Washington – Sofie v. Fibreboard Corp., 771 P.2d 711 (Wash. 1989) (cap on non-economic damages for personal injury at a rate of 0.43 times average annual wage and life expectancy violates jury trial guarantee).
 
* Wisconsin – Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, 2005 WI 125 (July 14, 2005) ($350,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases violates equal protection.); Martin v. Richards, 531 N.W.2d 70, 93 (Wis. 1995) (retroactive application of $1 million cap on non-economic damages violates due process).

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