Wed 4th Sep | 2013

Supreme Court Must Remove Medical Malpractice Caps to Restore Fairness to Victims

Medical Malpractice BY

As Florida’s Supreme Court justices return from their summer break, medical malpractice attorneys across the state are waiting with bated breath for a decision that will have a major impact for the victims they represent.

As it stands today, there are caps in place that limit pain and suffering damages awarded to medical malpractice plaintiffs at $1 million. If the Supreme Court does not remove the caps on non-economic damages and restore the fundamental rights of medical malpractice victims, it will be a defeat for fairness and the rule of law.

Many Floridians are not aware that under the existing law, a victim of medical malpractice is treated differently in any recovery from those injured by other kinds of negligent behavior (e.g., negligent driving). That realization has been devastating, both emotionally and financially, to many.

The problem with the current law is all pain and suffering cannot be reduced to a one-size-fits-all sum. In Florida, even though our constitution is based on equality, in 2003 our legislature carved out an exception to give extra protection to those in the medical profession, even when a jury finds the healthcare provider acted carelessly.

The caps’ constitutionality was called into question in McCall v. United States. In this case, an a20-year-old woman tragically died as a result of negligence after giving birth at a Fort Walton Beach, Fla. hospital. After her estate was awarded $3 million in damages, the pain and suffering damages suffered by her survivors was reduced to $1 million under the caps. The plaintiff’s attorneys have questioned the validity of that decision, and now the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the whether or not the caps on non-economic damages can be allowed to remain.

I implore the Supreme Court to apply the appropriate balancing test between protecting the rights of the patient, the rights of the doctor, and the interests of the public.

As I wait for the justices to announce their decision, I can only hope they will correct an injustice and reinforce the right to trial by jury, a rule that is sacrosanct. Justice is not blind, but rather blindfolded, and all Floridians should be truly equal under the law.

Regardless of what decision they ultimately make, it is important to remember that the current law, if it is allowed to stand, by no means offers immunity to negligent healthcare providers.

Even though the law has created additional hurdles to malpractice cases, I have never wavered from my pursuit of meritorious claims on behalf of persons injured at the hands of healthcare providers. That will not change, even if the caps remain in place.