The Florida Supreme Court ruled that a state law capping wrongful death non-economic damages is in violation of the state’s equal protection clause and is therefore unconstitutional.
The malpractice overhaul law, which was passed in 2003, capped wrongful-death medical malpractice payments for pain and suffering from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on circumstances. In striking down the cap, the high court criticized the legislature, saying that lawmakers had generated an “alleged malpractice crisis” in order to get the malpractice reform bill passed in the first place.
Justice R. Fred Lewis said the law discriminates against those “who are most grievously injured, those who sustain the greatest damage and loss, and multiple claimants.”
A past president of the Florida Justice Association told the Miami Herald that the decision was monumental. He said that law should have been struck down because it treats a person injured due to medical malpractice differently than a person injured due to another kind of negligence.
“It is being resoundingly applauded by our side of the bar, and quietly applauded by the defense bar,” he told the Herald.
The ruling stems from a case in which a woman died following a cesarean section in 2006. A lower court awarded her parents and her son $2 million in non-economic damages. However, because of the 2003 law, the award was reduced to $1 million.
On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court ruled that damage limits do not violate the U.S. Constitution, but said that the Florida Supreme Court should consider whether the limits violated the state constitution. The high court heard the case in 2012, but took two years to review it before issuing a ruling earlier this month.
Those who support medical malpractice limits on non-economic damages in Florida say that the court’s ruling should be viewed narrowly as having struck down limits on damages in wrongful death lawsuits involving multiple claimants only.
The medical malpractice attorneys at Farah & Farah in Gainesville will be exploring the implications this ruling will have on malpractice damages as a whole. If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice or negligence, please contact us immediately to discuss your legal rights. We can be reached toll-free at (800) 533-3555 or contact us online today.