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Florida Declares Caps on Medical Malpractice Claims Unconstitutional

The Florida Supreme Court declared late last month that the caps limiting the amount that a victim can receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit unconstitutional. Declared in a 5-2 decision from the panel of judges, plaintiffs’ lawyers have hailed the decision as a landmark for medical malpractice victims, while medical professionals declared that it will eventually threaten access to healthcare in the state.

Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

At issue in the case was whether the caps imposed by the Florida legislature in 2003 on medical malpractice awards were constitutional. The damage caps were enacted in response to a medical malpractice insurance crisis last decade. The insurance rates for medical malpractice skyrocketed for medical professionals in Florida, some believed because of the multi-million dollar awards given to victims. As a result, legislators capped the amount awarded for pain and suffering at $500,000 for injuries and $1 million if the victim died or was left in a permanent vegetative state.

The case in front of the Florida Supreme Court involved Michelle McCall, who died of complications after severe bleeding during childbirth in a Florida hospital. In the case of Estate of McCall v. United States, Ms. McCall was receiving care for her pregnancy on a U.S. Air Force base and due to issues in her third trimester had to be induced into labor. Rather than transfer her to an obstetrician, the internal medicine department managed the delivery. Complications ensued afterwards and a lack of monitoring of her vital signs led to her eventual death.

At trial, the damages awarded by the jury totaled $2 million for her family members, but Florida law limited the wrongful death recovery to the $1 million cap. The district court denied a motion to challenge the constitutionality of the medical malpractice caps, and Ms. McCall’s family appealed. The appellate court agreed with the district court but also certified the question for the Florida Supreme Court, where it ruled on the issue.

Response to the Ruling

Medical malpractice plaintiffs’ lawyers are thrilled about the verdict handed down by the Florida Supreme Court. They have lauded the court on recognizing the unconstitutionality of the caps on medical malpractice claims. In the ruling, Judge R. Fred Lewis stated that it was not fair to make a small group of people pay to solve a crisis that may have not ever existed, and the caps unfairly punish victims of malpractice with larger families. “At the present time, the cap on non-economic damages serves no purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members.”

One defense lawyer does not believe that this will be the end of protecting medical professionals from high verdicts in medical malpractice cases. He believes that the legislature will review the ruling and the law in order to find another way to protect medical professionals from multi-million dollar lawsuits. Others believe that this will reignite the argument over whether negligent doctors, greedy lawyers, or insurance companies are to blame for high verdicts in medical malpractice cases.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

If you or someone that you know has been injured in a medical malpractice case in Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, or the West Palm Beach area let the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at The Pendas Law Firm help. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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