Imagine you’ve filed a medical malpractice lawsuit and asked for a sum that will cover your financial damages, as well as any emotional damages or stress that has come from the negligence of a medical professional. Your case is solid, and the judge rules in your favor, but the compensation you are awarded is reduced. Because the law says you’re only entitled to a certain amount. Regardless of your individual situation.
Where is the justice in that?
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens to many medical malpractice victims who ask for compensation higher than Florida’s current cap on damages. State judges and district courts have ruled that these caps are unconstitutional, but the fight still rages on for victims whose damages exceed the cap.
The Recent History of Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Medical malpractice caps were put into place in 2003 by then-governor Jeb Bush. Florida limits each plaintiff from getting more than $500,000 in non-economic damages, and $750,000 if the plaintiff is filing against a non-practitioner.
Even when the law was signed, it was controversial. Months of arguments preceded it. Hospitals and healthcare providers insisted that the caps were necessary to balance out increasing malpractice-suit costs. Opponents of the caps argued that they would result in victims of malpractice not getting the justice or compensation that they rightly deserved.
That was just the beginning. Shortly after the caps were put into place, victims of medical malpractice who were affected brought their cases to appeals and higher courts. In many cases the victims won, and higher courts even called the caps “unconstitutional.” Here are just a few recent examples:
- March 2014: Michelle McCall died after a caesarian section in 2006. Her family and son were awarded $2 million by a federal judge, but the compensation was reduced to $1 million due to Florida’s caps. In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court found these caps unconstitutional. This made big headlines, but the decision only applied to wrongful death lawsuits filed by multiple parties.
- July 2015: The 4th District Court of Appeal rejected the caps placed on Susan Kalitan, who filed for medical malpractice in 2008 after suffering a perforated esophagus during a carpal-tunnel surgery. While she was originally awarded $4.7 million, circuit judges only allowed her to receive $2 million due to the 2003 caps.
- November 2016: The 2nd District Court of Appeal cited rulings from the 4th District Court of Appeal when rejecting the caps placed on Iala Suarez. Suarez did not receive proper medical care for symptoms of preeclampsia while she was pregnant. Her daughter now suffers from neurological injuries and conditions and will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life. Suarez was originally awarded over $9.6 million, but her compensation was reduced to $6.7 million.
Why Do We Keep Hearing These Stories?
The above stories all describe appeals courts and higher courts in Florida striking down the caps on medical malpractice lawsuits. So why are the laws still in place?
In most cases, the court’s ruling focused on the nuances of each individual case. Arguments are still being made in favor of the caps as well, but many Florida lawyers and lawmakers think it is time for the 2003 caps to be gone for good.
If you are filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, a Florida personal injury lawyer can walk you through all of the ins and outs of the process, including the damages you may file for and the factors that may help you deal with Florida’s medical malpractice caps.
About the Author:
Since 1994, seasoned litigation and trial lawyer Anthony B. White has helped thousands of accident victims seek damages due to injuries sustained as a result of another party’s negligence. Included in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and selected to the 2012, 2014-2016 editions of Florida Super Lawyers, Mr. White specializes in car accidents, insurance disputes, wrongful death, product liability, and medical malpractice cases. He is a longstanding member of the Florida Justice Association and the American Association for Justice and currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Broward County Justice Association.