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Personal Injury · Wrongful Death · Medical Malpractice

Proponents Want a Constitutional Amendment for Florida Medical Malpractice Award Caps

 The fight against medical malpractice award caps continues as proponents push for a constitutional amendment to solidify the controversial limits. According to a report in The Washington Times, in response to a defeat in the Florida Supreme Court, members of a 2002 task force are now advocating to secure a state constitutional amendment on the issue. Five members reportedly sent a letter to Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, asking each to propose a constitutional amendment that would come up for a vote before the citizens of Florida.

The task force was formed at the direction of former Governor Jeb Bush. Among its members are John Hitt, president of the University of Central Florida, and Donna Shalala, the current president of the University of Miami. Their investigations led to a recommendation that non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, be limited in medical malpractice cases. In 2003, the state legislature passed legislation to place a $500,000 cap on these damages, as part of a law that claimed to lower medical malpractice insurance rates and prevent physicians from moving their practices outside of Florida. The legal community, along with several advocacy groups, viewed the legislation as a devastating blow to victims of medical malpractice.

Florida Supreme Court’s Stance on the Issue

The law was challenged in the state courts as an issue in the case Estate of McCall vs. USA. The lawsuit stemmed from the childbirth related death of a 20-year-old mother, who received treatment on a federal air force base. The family of the woman sued the government, claiming that base physicians provided inadequate care. The family was successful at trial, with a finding of $1 million in economic damages and $2 million in non-economic damages. However, the judge ultimately slashed the non-economic damages to comply with the medical malpractice cap legislation.

On appeal, the federal appeals court asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of the statute. The result was a Supreme Court determination that the law violated the state constitution’s equal protection guarantee by “imposing unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties.”

According to The Washington Times article, task force members found the court’s decision disappointing. In the letter to the legislature, the members wrote, “Because we are eager to give the court the benefit of the doubt, we can only conclude that they made an egregious mistake.” It is reportedly too late in the legislative session for the request to be acted upon. There are only two weeks left in the Senate’s session and Florida House subcommittees meetings are concluded, so immediate consideration of the issue is highly unlikely.

Medical malpractice award caps are not created with the interests of the victim in mind. Instead, they are designed to shield the medical industry from the financial consequences of medical malpractice.

If you are dealing with an injury or death, caused by some form of medical malpractice, call the experienced Miami based lawyers of Pita and Del Prado at (888) 670-8060 for a free consultation. They have the knowledge and skill to aggressively advocate on your behalf.

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