Florida Supreme Court Lifts Cap on Payouts for Victims of Medical Malpractice
On June 8th, the Florida Supreme Court held that a 2003 state law that restricted pain and suffering-related damages in personal injury medical malpractice claims violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution, impacting plaintiffs who suffer severe personal injuries (and/or wrongful death) as a result of harm done by medical professionals.
In 2003, Florida state legislators justified passing the law by claiming that there was a crisis in higher health insurance premiums as a result of medical malpractice claims. However, in its opinion, the Court specifically found no evidence of a crisis justifying what they called “invidious discrimination between medical malpractice victims.”
The Law Overturned
The relevant Florida law limited noneconomic damages for negligence of practitioners. With respect to a cause of action for personal injury or wrongful death arising from medical negligence of practitioners, the limit on noneconomic damages was $500,000 per claimant. The law also held that no practitioner could be found liable for more than $500,000 in noneconomic damages, regardless of the number of claimants. In cases where the negligence resulted in a permanent vegetative state or death, the total noneconomic damages recoverable from all practitioners—regardless of the number of claimants—could not exceed $1 million. And with respect to a cause of action for claims arising from the medical negligence of non practitioners, noneconomic damages were limited to $750,000 to $1.5 million if the negligence resulted in a permanent vegetative state or death.
This particular case was brought after complications arose from a carpal tunnel surgery left the plaintiff severely injured. Specifically, she had gone into the hospital for outpatient surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist, and emerged with excruciating pain in her chest and back after one of the tubes used in the administration of anesthesia perforated her esophagus. The next day, she had to be rushed into lifesaving surgery to repair her esophagus. She was in the intensive care unit after being in a drug-induced coma for several weeks, and had to undergo several surgeries and therapies in order to begin eating again. To date, she continues to suffer from pain and serious mental disorders as a result of the incident.
Due to the state statute, her noneconomic damages were capped, of course, to $500,000 for practitioners, $1 million for injuries resulting in a permanent vegetative state or death, and $750,000 to $1.5 million for non practitioners when the negligence resulted in a permanent vegetative state of death. However ,the Fourth District had already held that the statutory caps on noneconomic damage awards on personal injury medical malpractice actions were unconstitutional—violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution—in 2014. This is indicative that Florida state legislators need to adjust the statute with respect to stated caps on noneconomic damages.
Consult With an Experienced Boca Raton Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
Medical malpractice claims can be complicated. Medical professionals and associated hospitals often mount aggressive defenses against these types of claims.
At Lavalle Brown & Ronan, our Boca Raton attorneys have extensive experience assisting individuals who have sustained pain and suffering due to medical malpractice. We strive to obtain the full compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.