A recent decision from the Florida Supreme Court rejected medical malpractice caps. For plaintiffs injured as a result of a healthcare provider’s negligence, this is very good news. Until recently, Florida law imposed caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. These caps limited the amount of money that an injured plaintiff could recover. However, as an article in The Palm Beach Post reports, a sharply divided Florida Supreme Court said these caps are unconstitutional.
What else do you need to know about the recent Florida Supreme Court decision?
Understanding Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
To better understand the implications of the Florida Supreme Court decision, it is important to learn how damages work in the state (and how they were limited by a statute prior to the court’s recent decision). Generally speaking, medical malpractice plaintiffs can be eligible to receive two types of compensatory damages, both of which are designed to compensate an injured patient for her losses:
- Economic damages: This type of damage award compensates a plaintiff for objective losses that have a clear-cut dollar figure, and can include, for instance, hospital bills, rehabilitative therapy costs, and lost wages.
- Non-economic damages: This type of damage award compensates a plaintiff for subjective losses that do not have a clear-cut dollar figure. Since there is no agreed-upon amount for these damages, they tend to be more controversial. As such, some legislatures, including Florida’s, have set caps on non-economic damages. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, or the loss of a patient’s enjoyment of life after the injury.
Under Florida Statutes Section 766.118, the following damage caps used to exist for medical malpractice non-economic damages:
- Limit of $500,000 on non-economic damages for claims against medical practitioners; and
- Limit of $750,000 on non-economic damages for claims against defendants who are not practitioners.
Impact of North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan
In North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan (2017), the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the damage caps cited above are unconstitutional. The court reasoned that damage caps “arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries.” At the same time, the court addressed concerns about the high costs of medical malpractice insurance, which was one of the reasons that the caps were put into place. It noted that there is “no evidence of a continuing medical malpractice insurance crisis justifying the arbitrary and invidious discrimination between medical malpractice victims.” As such, the court concluded that “the caps on personal injury noneconomic damages provided in section 766.118 violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution.”
With this ruling, medical malpractice plaintiffs no longer will be bound by the non-economic damages cap and will be able to recover in excess of $500,000 or $750,000—depending on the case—for pain and suffering, as well as for other non-economic losses.
A West Palm Beach Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help
If you were injured because of a healthcare provider’s negligence, a Florida medical malpractice attorney can assist with your case. Contact Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith PLLC to discuss your options for filing a medical malpractice claim.