Florida's Supreme Court made headlines last week for removing the cap on damages for wrongful death medical malpractice cases. This is excellent news for Florida families that are grieving the loss of a loved one whose death was preceded by a failure to meet the standard of care or wrongdoing on the part of a professional in the healthcare system.
According to a report from AP writer Brendan Farrington, on March 13:
In a 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional “caps placed on how much money people can receive in cases” in which a physician’s mistake led to the death of a patient. The limits on lawsuits “were part of a law then-Republican Gov. Jeb Bush pushed in 2003 in an effort to lower the cost of malpractice insurance rates and to keep doctors from moving out of state.” In its ruling, the Florida Supreme Court wrote, “The cap on non-economic damages serves no purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members.”
Plaintiffs' lawyers across the U.S. are commending this reversal and return of fortune to the patients they so often represent. The Orlando Sentinel described the news as "a huge victory ro plaintiffs' lawyers who fiercely opposed limits on so-called 'non-economic' damages," adding that physicians will feel the impact, after having "made a priority of reining in medical-malpractice lawsuits."
Other reports reflect the sentiment that the previous ruling was not only unconstitutional, but one that burdened medical malpractice victims and their families. Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas reported on March 13, that in its ruling, "the court blasted “the Legislature for creating an ‘alleged medical malpractice crisis’ and concluding that the cap on wrongful death non-economic damages violates the state constitution’s equal protection clause.” The ruling, which was “written by Justice R. Fred Lewis, suggested that legislators created a crisis to push through the caps on damages in medical liability lawsuits which ‘has the effect of saving a modest amount for many by imposing devastating costs on a few.’”
According to the Palm Beach Post, the cap had limited pain and suffering damages to a meager $500,000 for those who are injured by medical malpractice, and a insufficient $1,000,000 for the estate of a deceased victim or one left in a vegetative state.
As a firm that practices across the country with offices in four states, this news inspires us to hope for the elimination of medical malpractice damage caps for patients across the U.S.
Here is a current snapshot of the state of medical malpractice damages in the states where our offices are located:
Arizona: unconstitutional according to state constitution
New Mexico: $600,000 generalized cap on all categories of damages, except past and future medical expenses or punitive damages
Utah: $450,000 cap on non-economic damages
California: $250,000 cap on non-economic damages
At Phillips Law Group, we are passionate about protecting the rights of those who have been injured or killed due to the negligence of the healthcare system or its employees. If you or a loved one believe you may have a medical malpractice claim, contact us for free legal advice today.