Only hours after CCL, along with co-counsel Dr. Patrick Cullan of Omaha’s Cullan & Cullan, filed their sur-reply brief on the constitutional issues, the U.S. District Court issued its opinion upholding a jury’s verdict of $17 million but reduced the judgment to $1.75 million in line with Nebraska’s cap on damages in medical malpractice cases. The underlying case involved a child born with severe brain damage due to medical malpractice.

Although the court rejected all of the defendant hospital’s post-trial objections to the verdict, it also rejected all of the constitutional challenges to the cap. In finding no violation of the Seventh Amendment’s right to trial by jury, the court reasoned that the right is limited to cases involving more than $20 and that this limit on federal jurisdiction may not apply to state courts of general jurisdiction might not possess, making application of the jury-trial right to the states problematic. The court further reasoned that the cap, which is supported by a state fund, assures a “more certain recovery,” as in workers compensation laws, thereby providing a constitutional basis for its imposition.

CCL’s Robert S. Peck and Valerie Nannery worked on the constitutional arguments in the District Court brief and will continue in that role as the case is appealed to the Eighth Circuit in the case, Schmidt v. Bellevue Medical Center.