Florida Supreme Court Rules Caps on Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Cases Unconstitutional - Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, PA | a personal injury law firm
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Florida Supreme
Court Rules Caps on Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Cases Unconstitutional

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Miami personal injury lawyers and personal injury claimants are sometimes limited in what they can recover under Florida law. For example, in a medical malpractice/wrongful death case, non-economic damages were capped.

A quick primer:

  • Economic damages refers to quantifiable numbers such as medical bills, property damage and lost wages that are relatively easy to quantify.
  • Noneconomic damages are more difficult to compute. Florida Statutes 766.202(8) defines noneconomic damages as: pain and suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of capacity to enjoy life and more.

For any medical malpractice case (wrongful death or not) Fla. Stat. 766.118 caps noneconomic damages at $500,000 per claimant, but verdicts may never be entered against a single medical practitioner for more than $500,000 (regardless of the number of injured claimants) – unless certain special circumstances apply or the practitioner’s negligence resulted in a permanent vegetative state or death, in which case the verdict entered may not exceed $1,000,000 (for all claimants against all practitioners) in a particular case.

ER doctors are afforded even greater protections: if a medical negligence claim is alleged in an emergency-medicine context, each individual claimant may never recover more than $150,000 in non-economic damages (and all claimants involved in one claim are capped at a total of $300,000 in noneconomic damages, regardless of the number of claimants) (F.S. 766.112(4)).

F.S. 766.112(6) limits Medicaid recipients, claiming medical malpractice, to $300,000 per claimant for noneconomic damages (regardless of the number of medical practitioners brought in as defendants), unless the claimant pleads and proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that the medical practitioner acted in a wrongful manner. However, no single practitioner may be liable for more than $200,000 in noneconomic damages (regardless of number of claimants), unless proven to have acted in a wrongful manner. If a practitioner has acted in a wrongful manner, then the other aforementioned caps will apply.

Recently the Florida Supreme Court, in Estate of Michelle E. McCall, et al. v. USA, No. SC11-1148 (March 13, 2014), ruled in a case that challenged the constitutionality of some of these caps on medical malpracticewrongful death noneconomic damages. The petitioners claimed that the statutory cap violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, constitutes a taking violation of the 5thamendment of the US Constitution and violates several sections of the Florida Constitution, including: the right to trial by jury guaranteed under article I, section 22; the right to access courts under article I, section 21; and others.