Florida high court rejects caps for medical malpractice cases

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A limit on the pain-and-suffering damages plaintiffs can receive in medical malpractice cases was ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday. 

A 2003 law introduced different levels of caps based on factors such as the number of claimants involved in a lawsuit and the types of defendants. The caps were meant to remedy what physicians called a “crisis of high insurance premiums,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.

In a four-member opinion, high court justices disputed that such a crisis existed and argued that the caps on non-economic damages “arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries.”

“We further conclude that because there is no evidence of a continuing medical malpractice insurance crisis justifying the arbitrary and invidious discrimination between medical malpractice victims, there is no rational relationship between the personal injury noneconomic damage caps … and alleviating this purported crisis,” the justices wrote.

The lawsuit stemmed from a 2008 complaint from a patient who underwent surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome and emerged with a perforated esophagus caused by tubes inserted into her mouth during the procedure. She was awarded $4 million in non-economic damages by a jury; that amount was dropped by $2 million due to the caps.