Could Florida’s Medical Malpractice Caps Become Obsolete?

Could Florida’s Medical Malpractice Caps Become Obsolete?

Allegory of Justice

A recent court ruling in Florida has dealt a potentially devastating blow to the state’s current cap on damages paid out in medical malpractice lawsuits.

According to the Washington Times, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that caps on certain medical malpractice damages don’t apply in cases involving personal injury.

Under this ruling, the state law’s current limits on pain-and-suffering damages — otherwise called non-economic damages — are considered unconstitutional.

“(The) caps are unconstitutional not only in wrongful death actions, but also in personal injury suits as they violate equal protection,” the 14-page decision reads. “Whereas the caps on non-economic damages in (the section of state law) fully compensate those individuals with non-economic damages in an amount that falls below the caps, injured parties with non-economic damages in excess of the caps are not fully compensated.”

For plaintiff Susan Kalitan, who left her 2008 surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome with a perforated esophagus that became infected and required chest and neck surgery, the decision is welcome news. The jury awarded Kalitan $4.7 million in damages, about $4 million of which are non-economic damages, CBS Miami reported.

The court’s decision follows a similar ruling made last year in the state Supreme Court, in which limits on non-economic damages in wrongful-death cases were rejected.

Across the country, medical malpractice lawsuits paid out approximately $3.6 billion in 2013 alone. In Florida, under the medical-malpractice law that then-Gov. Jeb Bush passed in 2003, the maximum medical malpractice payout is set at $500,000.

With this decision, Florida’s medical malpractice caps are at risk of being shot down in even more courts across the state. Attorney Crane Johnstone of Fort Lauderdale’s Schlesinger Law Offices told the Washington Times that this ruling could pave the way for similar cases seeking to overturn the medical malpractice damages cap. At the same time, the 4th District Court of Appeal’s decision could be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, as well.

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