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Florida Malpractice Damage Caps Supported by the Lawyer General

The legal and political battle over medical malpractice limits is heating up again more than 12 years after then-Gov. Jeb Bush worked to pass a controversial law that would limit damages that could be awarded for pain and suffering (also known as non-economic damages) in medical malpractice suits. Those in favor of the limits argued that the rise in malpractice insurance rates was hurting the state’s economy. Medical malpractice lawyers and others who fought against these caps argued that they violated the rights of those who had suffered due to medical malpractice.

One malpractice case in which the non-economic damages awarded were cut significantly has made its way to the Florida Supreme Court. That happened after an appeals court ruled that the caps weren’t constitutional because they “violate equal protection.”

Now Florida Lawyer General Pam Bondi has entered into the fray. Her office has filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the high court to uphold the malpractice damage caps. So have the Florida Justice Reform Institute, a group striving to limit damages, and the Florida Hospital Association.

The case at hand was first filed in Broward County in 2008. It involves a woman who suffered a perforated esophagus from the tubes inserted into her mouth to administer anesthesia for her carpel-tunnel syndrome surgery.

The caps on damages under the law vary depending on multiple factors, including the types of defendants and the number of plaintiffs. Physicians have higher caps under the law than those associated with emergency care.

In an earlier filing with the appeals court, the plaintiff’s lawyers noted that there were other ways to lower malpractice premiums besides capping damages for plaintiffs. They wrote, “If the Legislature’s objective was to lower medical malpractice premiums, less restrictive means, such as regulating those premiums, which do not adversely affect anyone’s constitutional rights, are readily available.”

Non-economic damages caused by medical malpractice may seem difficult to quantify. They often involve ongoing pain or having to live a life far different and more limited than the one you knew before the injury. Florida medical malpractice lawyers work to put a price on such damages and to convince judges and juries that these damages are warranted.

Source: Sunshine State News, “Pam Bondi Defends Medical Malpractice Limits,” Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida, Dec. 15, 2015

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