Court of Appeals Strikes Personal Injury Damages Cap
One year ago the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s $1 million statutory cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death lawsuits arising out of medical malpractice was unconstitutional. And recently, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the $1 million statutory cap was unconstitutional in personal injury medical malpractice cases as well.
Facts of the Case
In 2007, a patient underwent an outpatient surgery to treat the patient’s carpal tunnel syndrome. The procedure involved general anesthesia. During intubation, the patient’s esophagus was perforated. When the patient woke up, she complained of intense pain in her chest and back but was nevertheless sent home (albeit with some pain medication). When a neighbor found her unconscious the next day, she was rushed back to the hospital where the patient had to undergo emergency surgery to repair the tear in her esophagus. The patient was in a drug-induced coma for a number of weeks and had to undergo therapy to learn how to eat once more. The patient sued the doctors and nurses involved along with the hospital and Barry University.
A jury found in favor of the patient and awarded her nearly $5 million in damages, which included $2 million for past pain and suffering and $2 million for future pain and suffering. Citing the $1 million statutory cap, however, the trial court reduced the award by $2 million (the award was reduced further based on the hospital’s status as a sovereign entity). The patient appealed the decision.
Fourth District Court of Appeals Applies McCall to Medical Malpractice Personal Injury Cases
Citing Estate of McCall v. United States, the Fourth District Court of appeals reversed the trial court’s action in imposing the $1 million statutory cap on non-economic sanctions. In McCall, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the statutory $1 million statutory cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases attributable to medical malpractice was unconstitutional and deprived plaintiffs in these cases of the ability to recover full and fair compensation. The Fourth District essentially adopted this same logic: namely, that the statutory $1 million cap on non-economic damages in personal injury cases attributable to medical malpractice is also unconstitutional.
What This Means for Florida Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs
The decision in McCall, along with the Fourth District’s ruling, is good news for Florida medical malpractice plaintiffs. Now regardless of whether the injured patient dies from the medical negligence or survives the malpractice, the plaintiff (the patient in injury cases or the surviving family members in wrongful death cases) can present evidence on the true extent of pain and suffering and other non-economic damage the malpractice has caused and have a jury award them fair compensation and not worry about those non-economic damages being reduced because of the statutory cap.
The Pendas Law Firm represents Floridians who have been injured by the medical carelessness and mistakes of doctors and nurses. Contact our offices today at 1-888-LPENDAS (573-6327) for assistance and to assert your legal rights after an instance of medical malpractice.