Is there a cap on medical malpractice damages in South Dakota?
Yes. South Dakota, like a lot of states, has a law on the books that places a limit or “cap” on the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. The effect of laws like this is that, even after a plaintiff proves that the defendant committed malpractice -- and the jury reaches the same conclusion -- this law limits the actual amount of damages that the plaintiff can be awarded.
In South Dakota, non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are capped at $500,000, according to S.D. Cod. Laws section 21-3-11. This includes cases against almost any kind of health care provider you can think of, including physicians, chiropractors, optometrists, dentists, hospitals, registered nurses, physicians' assistants, and corporate employers.
So, what are non-economic (also called “general” damages)? They include compensation for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and the loss of enjoyment of life that result from the malpractice. Non-economic damages are said to be more “subjective” from plaintiff to plaintiff, and they’re not so easy to capture with a dollar amount.
Economic damages, on the other hand, typically consist of payment for past and future medical care, reimbursement of lost income, compensation for lost earning capacity, and other financial losses that can be attributed to the doctor or hospital error on which the malpractice lawsuit is based.
South Dakota does not cap economic damages in medical malpractice cases, and that’s an important distinction to keep in mind. Learn more about Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases.
by: David Goguen, J.D.