A jury verdict for a Colorado man paralyzed due the medical negligence and malpractice will be reduced by nearly $10 million due to damages limits enacted in that state which cap damages and reduce the accountability and liability of individuals and institutions that injure people very badly. Jason Walters, age 36, appeared at an emergency room at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs reporting severe neck pain and numbness in his arms and legs. He was discharged with a diagnosis of neck strain. Only a few hours later he was completely paralyzed from the neck down, because he had a spinal injury. The jury's total verdict was $15 million. However, the $10 million of the verdict awarded for pain and suffering damages will be reduced to $300,000 because of a Colorado law that restricts an individual's jury trial rights and limits the liability of institutions and individuals that injure other people badly by their negligence.
Source: Denver Business Journal
This case illustrates why the argument by tort reformers that damages should be limited to deter frivolous lawsuits is nonsense. Mr. Walters was rendered paralyzed for the rest of his life at age 36 due to medical malpractice; his paralysis set in only a few hours after he tried to get treatment but was discharged from the hospital. His claim is valid yet the jury's assessment of his proper damages is being overridden by law limiting damages enacted on the theory that it will deter someone who does not have a valid claim from filing suit. That makes no sense. Why should Mr. Walters and others like him have their rights taken away and in effect be punished because someone who doesn't have a valid claim might sue? Why shouldn't the person who doesn't have a valid claim be punished instead of someone like Mr. Walters who does? I can concede that some liability or tort reform should be done but that would not include taking away the rights of people with truly valid claims. Perhaps it was this type of thinking that led the Missouri Supreme Court to strike down a law in that state which aimed like the Colorado law involved in Mr. Walters' case to take away the rights of injured persons, see Constitutional Right to Jury Trial Upheld by Missouri Supreme Court.