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Florida Supreme Court Rules Medical Malpractice Caps Unconstitutional

June 20, 2017

Last week, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled that arbitrary caps on awards to medical malpractice victims are unconstitutional.  The court, in a 4-3 ruling, found that the cap enacted in 2003 did not prove to reduce malpractice insurance rates. Instead, this cap unfairly impacted the most severely affected by a doctor’s negligence.

The 2003 cap limited non-economic damages, such as damages for pain and suffering, against physicians to $500,000 or $1M if the injuries were catastrophic. Considered one of former Governor Jeb Bush’s major policy victories back in 2003, the justices were divided with the four-member majority finding that the cap on non-economic damages violated equal —protection rights, also de-bunking the justification that lawmakers used back in 2003 about any relationship between such awards and insurance rates.

The case which was the subject of the court’s ruling involved a victim who was severely injured when an anesthesia tube puncture her esophagus during a carpal tunnel surgery at a Broward County hospital. Doctors never noticed the injury. Post-operatively, the patient complained about severe back and chest pain, and her physician gave her pain medication and released her from the hospital. A day later she was found unconscious by a neighbor and remained in a drug- induced coma for weeks, followed by additional surgeries and intensive therapy to be able to eat again according to court documents.

Although a lower court judge determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were catastrophic, due to the Medical Malpractice cap and a separate law that limited the government-run hospital’s liability to $100K, the jury’s verdict was reduced by about $3.3M.  The Florida Supreme Court found that such a reduction violated the equal protection clause of the constitution.

To Read Florida Supreme Court Ruling Click Here



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