Miami-Dade Judge Declares Cap on Noneconomic Damages in Medical Malpractice Unconstitutional
Recently, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose M. Rodriguez ruled that Florida law limiting noneconomic damages to $350,000 was unconstitutional, finally ending a cap on noneconomic damages that has harmed thousands of medical malpractice victims in Florida each year.
Specifically, Judge Rodriguez labeled Florida’s cap on noneconomic damages, which apply when a plaintiff succeeds at trial but had previously rejected the defendant’s offer to voluntarily arbitrate the claim, as outdated and unconstitutional, finding that it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution by mandating that compensation must be reduced to a specific amount, regardless of the harm done. He described these statutes as epitomizing a “classic case of “heads I win, tails you lose.”
The Florida law deemed unconstitutional by Judge Rodriguez specifically mandates that if the plaintiff rejects the defendant’s offer to voluntarily arbitrate the case, the defendant can then move to amend the jury’s judgment so that it conforms to the lower limits under the law ($350,000). In this way, it arguably becomes easy for defendants found responsible for medical negligence to orchestrate only paying the lower limits of the law for pain, suffering, and other noneconomic damages.
In addition, the statute had also failed to modernize, as $350,000 could pay for more by way of pain and suffering from a medical mistake back when the statute passed, having considerably more buying power than it does today. Specifically, Judge Rodriguez agreed with the injured plaintiff that $350,000 in 1988 equates to nearly $750,000 in 2018. The Judge pointed out that the cap was put in place, in part, with the justification that there would otherwise be a “crisis” for insurance companies having to pay out victims of medical malpractice. However, conditions had changed, transforming what might have once been reasonable into irrational legislation.
Another Florida Statute Limiting Noneconomic Damages Defeated
When it comes to noneconomic damages, those that depend upon them are typically the most vulnerable in society: children, the elderly, etc.; those that cannot earn economic damages. In medical malpractice cases, these are damages for pain and suffering caused by medical mistakes and negligence, as well as loss of comfort, attention, services, and society.
This decision at the county level now very well may prompt higher courts in Florida to also throw out the statute, as they have previously done with other medical malpractice limitations codified in state law; laws that limited noneconomic damages in general and, specifically, in wrongful death cases.
Florida Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you have suffered due to a medical mistake, omission, or negligence, contact our Florida lawyers at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan today to find out how we can help. Our Boca Raton attorneys have years of experience fighting for those who should not have artificial, unfair limitations placed on the compensation they are due in order to get back on their feet.