Florida State Supreme Court Examining Constitutionality of Damage Cap
In 2003, Florida legislature passed a law overhauling the state’s medical malpractice statutes. As part of this law, the legislature capped the amount of pain and suffering a damages that could be awarded in a medical malpractice case to between $150,000.00 and $1.5 million depending on the circumstances. There is a case before the Florida Supreme Court challenging whether or not that damage cap is constitutional under Florida’s state constitution.
The case revolves around Michelle McCall who died in child birth when a necessary cesarean section was not performed. Her family hired Florida medical malpractice attorneys to argue her death was the result of medical malpractice. The court agreed and awarded $980,462 in economic damages and an additional $2 million for pain and suffering. The judge reduced the latter to $1 million per state law.
Courthousenews.com reported the family first appealed the decision to enforce the damage cap to the US 11th Circuit Court. The family argued there was no rational basis for the damage caps. The defense pointed out that the legislature specifically stated its purpose in creating the law was to eliminate the uncertainty of how much a jury can award and cap the damages so that doctor’s malpractice insurance premiums are reduced. Basically the Florida legislature decided that it was more important to reduce the cost of malpractice premiums for doctors than it was to make sure injured people receive full compensation for their injuries. Unfortunately, the federal court concluded that the legislature had the right to make that tradeoff.
However, the federal court does not have the last say when it comes to interpreting the Florida Constitution. That job rests with the Florida Supreme Court. As a result, the McCall family has appealed the decision to the Florida Supreme Court.