By: Allan M. Siegel
In a landmark decision, the Florida Supreme Court ruled to strike down
medical malpractice damages caps that have been in place statewide since
2003. According to the Court’s majority opinion, the Justices found
capping non-economic damages was unconstitutional because they were implemented
arbitrarily and unfairly infringed upon the rights of victims who suffer
the most serious injuries as a result of medical negligence and substandard
care. Justices also commended on the fact that there is no definitive
evidence the caps reduced malpractice insurance premiums as lawmakers
claimed they would.
The ruling stems from a case in which a Broward County woman was seriously
injured as a result of an anesthesia error. Although she complained of
severe pain, she was sent home by medical professionals who failed to
identify her injuries. She was discovered unconscious in her home the
following day, and was rushed to the hospital for life-saving surgery.
Following a drug-induced coma that lasted several weeks, she was required
to undergo several additional surgeries and intensive therapy in order
to eat and drink on her own. She continues to experience emotional and
mental anguish, pain, and limitations to her daily life.
Although she was awarded $4 million for her pain and suffering by a Broward
County jury, her non-economic damages were reduced by over $3 million
due to the damages caps and another law that limits liability for government-run
hospitals. By declaring the caps unconstitutional, the woman is now entitled
to the full amount of damages awarded by jury, and other victims in Florida
will also be able to pursue the full value of their non-economic damages
Although the decision applies only to Florida, it is a significant victory
for victims’ rights, and one that will hopefully lead the way in
refuting unfair damages caps in civil personal injury and medical malpractice
cases. Tort reform efforts have been hotly debated over the past several
years, and many have focused on capping the amount of non-economic damages
victims are able to recover.
This includes one bill (HR 1215), which was recently narrowly passed by
the US House of Representatives, which would place a $250,000 cap on non-economic
damages in medical malpractice cases, if passed by the Senate, and signed
by the President. (That bill is inappropriately named “Protecting
Access to Care Act”). Non-economic damages are intangible losses
resulting from injuries, and often include pain and suffering, mental
anguish, loss of support or companionship, and other emotional injuries
suffered by both victims and their loved ones. In many cases, the emotional
toll of serious injuries is profound, especially in cases where victims
suffer life-altering harm, disabilities, and impairment, or when families
endure the ultimate loss of a loved one due to another’s negligence.
Most Americans may be against medical malpractice caps, but it has been
a tough fight to push back against the special interests groups that work
to pass laws in their favor. In several recent posts, we have discussed
the latest tort reform efforts and how they aim to slash victims’
rights. These efforts would also strip citizen-comprised juries of decision-making
power and place that power in the hands of politicians, insurance companies,
and corporate powers that have financial interests in limiting the amount
of compensation victims are paid. Ultimately, damages caps are motivated
by corporations that place profits over people.
As a Washington, DC-based personal injury law firm that has spent more
than 45 years fighting on behalf of local men, women, and families after
they were harmed due to negligence, Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata &
Siegel, P.C. values the importance of our civil justice system. It is
the venue in which the everyday citizen can make their voice heard, even
when they face off against corporations and insurance providers that have
mountains of money on their side. Over the years, we have helped guide
clients throughout the region through the civil personal injury process,
and have recovered hundreds of millions on their behalves.
If you are interested in learning more about tort reform, damages caps,
and how you can become involved to protect your rights and the rights
of victims, we encourage you to visit
www.takejusticeback.com. Our legal team is also readily available to help victims learn more about
pursuing medical malpractice and personal injury claims during a free
Contact us to speak with a member of our legal team.