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Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Medical Malpractice Damages Cap

According to a recent news article from the Orlando Sentinel, the Florida Supreme Court has just ruled that the existing damages cap on medical malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional.  The bill in question was signed into law by then-Governor Jeb Bush in 2003.  It was very controversial at the time and is no longer the law in our state.

The judges held, through their majority opinion, that caps on noneconomic damages are arbitrary, serve only to reduce a plaintiff’s recovery in the case of serious injuries, and are only for the benefit of the insurance companies.  The state officials and Bush originally justified the law on the basis that we were facing what they called an insurance crisis. The theory, which as has been disproven time and time again, and has now been rejected by the Florida supreme court, is that if the plaintiffs can collect large amounts of money in medical malpractice case, the insurance companies will not be able to afford to pay the damages and will therefore raise rates.  This will in turn cause insurance to become too expensive, and doctors will stop practicing medicine. If this sounds somewhat ridiculous, that is because it is, and that is one reason why this argument falls flat in courts around the nation, including our own state supreme court.

The reality is that insurance companies are making trillions in revenue in years and huge amounts of profit.  These insurance companies take in more than the GDP in many countries.  While they may be raising rates on doctors who are found to have committed medical malpractice, they are not doing so because they are going broke.

This law that is not no longer in place was a cap on non-economic damages.  As our Orlando medical malpractice attorneys can explain, there are economic damages and non-economic damages in a typical lawsuit. Sometimes economic damages are called liquid damages, but regardless of the name used, it means a loss that can easily identified as a monetary value.

For example, if you are injured due to medical malpractice and miss two weeks of work, it is easy to calculate exactly how much money that cost you.  They simply take two weeks of your salary or hourly wages.  Since we know an exact dollar figure, that is an economic damage.

On the other hand, pain and suffering is a non-economic damage. When you are injured in any type of personal injury case, you attorney will likely ask for money for your pain and suffering.  While it may seem hard to reduce pain and suffering to a monetary value, that is how the system works.

In the case that led to this challenge and appeal before the state supreme court, plaintiff went into surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome in 2007.  As part of any surgery with general aesthesia, doctors will insert a breathing tube into your airway to regulate the flow of oxygen while you are put under.  In that case, the jury concluded that doctors destroyed her esophagus when they put in the tubes.  The jury awarded $4 million for her pain and suffering, as this had seriously reduced her quality of life and the cap arbitrarily cut this jury’s verdict in half.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Malpractice damage caps struck down by Florida Supreme Court, June 15, 2017, By Jim Saunders, Orlando Sentinel

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