Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) July 28, 2017 - On June 8, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are unconstitutional, backing the earlier ruling of a lower court.
“This is a big victory for patients,” said Robert Joyce, a medical malpractice attorney with the Tampa law firm of Joyce & Reyes. “When patients are harmed by medical mistakes, they should be able to use the legal system to obtain compensation for the full extent of their injuries, and not have the amount of damages arbitrarily capped.”
The 4-3 decision by the state high court found that the law capping damages is unconstitutional. The 2003 law limits non-economic damages to $500,000, or $1 million in extreme cases. Non-economic damages are non-pecuniary harms such as pain and suffering or disability, as opposed to economic damages that can be more easily quantified, such as medical expenses and lost earnings. The court found that the law violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution, because some plaintiffs are fully compensated for their injuries, but those with the most serious injuries face an arbitrary limit.
The decision came in the case of a woman who suffered a complication from surgery at North Broward Hospital District in 2007. The lawsuit claimed that the patient’s esophagus was perforated during intubation for anesthesia, which required emergency surgery, and the patient never returned to full health. A jury awarded the woman $4 million in non-economic damages, but the trial court reduced the damages because of the cap on non-economic damages.
The original justification for the law was that it was needed to address a “crisis” in the high cost of medical malpractice insurance. However, many observers have disputed whether any such crisis ever existed, or whether caps on damages have any effect on insurance premiums.
Joyce and Reyes Law Firm, P.A.
307 S Hyde Park Ave
Tampa, FL 33606
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