In its opinion filed on October 4, 2016, the Supreme Court of Missouri (“Missouri Supreme Court”) held that the plaintiff was not entitled to post-judgment interest on the Missouri medical malpractice verdict in his favor in the amount of $883,000 (the Missouri medical malpractice jury awarded $33,000 for past economic damages, $750,000 for past noneconomic damages, and $100,000 for future noneconomic damages).
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff was admitted to the defendant hospital on January 28, 2008 for surgery to remove a pancreatic pseudocyst. Two days later, the plaintiff developed a pressure wound on his buttocks that progressed into a stage IV pressure ulcer extending from the surface of his skin to the bone. The plaintiff had to endure surgical debridement. The plaintiff was released from the defendant hospital on February 7, 2008.
At home, the dressings on the plaintiff’s pressure wound had to be changed multiple times a day. While home health care nurses made weekly visits, the majority of the dressings were changed by the plaintiff’s wife. To manage the pain during the change of dressings, the plaintiff’s surgeon prescribed lidocaine to numb the area around the wound.
The wound initially healed in five months but the plaintiff later began experiencing severe pain at the wound site when bending over or sitting down. A plastic surgeon determined the pain resulted from a band of scar tissue that had formed as the wound healed. In October 2008, the plaintiff had a second surgery to remove the scar tissue and replace it with a skin graft taken from his thigh. The skin graft was only partially successful. By February 2009, the wound had completely healed.
The plaintiff subsequently filed his Missouri medical malpractice lawsuit in 2012, alleging that the defendant hospital negligently failed to adequately follow its own policies, procedures, and protocols regarding pressure injury prevention when it allowed his body to be exposed to pressure sufficient to create the ulcer.
The Missouri medical malpractice jury returned its verdict against the defendant hospital. Both parties filed post-trial motions regarding whether the plaintiff was entitled to post-judgment interest. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the plaintiff without post-judgment interest. Both parties appealed.
The Post-Judgment Interest Issue
The Missouri Supreme Court held that while section 408.040.1 provides that judgments shall accrue interest, it does so in the context of “the judgment balance as set forth in this section.” Subsections 2 and 3 of section 408.040 then govern the accrual of post-judgment interest. However, section 538.300 prohibits the application of subsections 2 and 3 of section 408.040 in medical negligence actions against health care providers.
The Missouri Supreme Court held that when the relevant statutes are read together, in pari materia, the plaintiff was not statutorily entitled to post-judgment interest pursuant to section 408.040.
Source Dieser v. St. Anthony’s Medical Center, No. SC95022.
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