The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the cap on wrongful death non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits violates the state constitution's equal protection clause.
In the 5-2 ruling, written by Justice R. Fred Lewis, he blasted the Legislature for creating an "alleged medical malpractice" crisis, and concluded that the law discriminates against " those who are most grievously injured, those who sustain the greatest damage and loss, and multiple claimants."
The caps limited payments for pain and suffering to $500,000 or $1 million, depending on the circumstances and number of people involved.
This decision will effectively remove the cap on non-economic damages when someone dies because of medical malpractice. Victims whose cases were tried between the time the law took effect in 2003 and now will have no recourse.
Currently, the Florida Justice Association estimates there are more than 700 medical malpractice cases pending statewide.
The caps were initially pushed by former Gov. Jeb Bush, with the support of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies, who viewed trial lawyers as their political foes. They arged the reforms were needed to curb medical malpractice costs that were forcing doctors to leave the state or avoid high-risk services.
The case was brought by the family of Michelle McCall, who died after she bled to death following a C-section in 2006. McCall's estate sued the federal government, as she was part of a military family and treated by U.S. Air Force medical staff. A federal judge found that her parents and son should receive $2 million in non-economic damages, but it was reduced to $1 million because of the 2003 law.
"The statuatory cap on non-economic damages fails because it imposes unfair and illogical brudens on injured parties when an act of medical negligence gives rise to multiple claimants," Lewis wrote.
According to Justice Barbara Pariente, "There is no evidence of a continuing medical malpractice crisis that would justify the arbitrary reduction of survivors' noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases based on the number of survivors."
If you or a family member has suffered due to a serious medical malpractice catastrophic injury or wrongful death, we want you to know that we are here to help.
For more information, contact us.
Source: The Miami Herald, "Court rejects caps on malpractice suits," March 13, 2014.