Florida Medical Malpractice Caps Unconstitutional In Personal Injury Cases
A recent decision by a South Florida appeals court ruled that a 2003 law limiting non-economic damages (otherwise known as “pain and suffering” damages) is unconstitutional in personal injury litigation. The case heard before the Fourth District Court of Appeals involved a dental assistant who had surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome. Her esophagus was perforated during the anesthesia process when tubes were placed in her esophagus and mouth.
This decision follows last year’s Florida Supreme Court opinion that declared the caps on non-economic damages in wrongful-death cases unconstitutional as a violation of the equal protection rights set forth in the Florida Constitution. The Fourth District’s opinion stated that as in wrongful-death suits, the caps are unconstitutional in personal injury suits because plaintiffs with non-economic damages that exceed the caps cannot be fully compensated under the statute.
The 2003 caps on non-economic damages were placed into law in an effort to decrease the costs of medical malpractice insurance, which were high at the time. Damages under the law are capped at different amounts, which depend on certain factors. These factors include the types of defendants and the number of plaintiffs in each case. There are different limits that apply to non-economic damages for negligence of practitioners, non-practitioners, practitioners providing emergency services and care, non-practitioners providing emergency services and care, and practitioners providing services and care to Medicaid recipients. The caps on non-economic damages vary between $200,000 to $1.5 million under the statute.
According to the statute, certain types of non-economic damages are only available if the court (or jury) determines that the plaintiff suffered a catastrophic injury that was caused by the defendant’s negligence. “Catastrophic injury” is defined in the law as a “permanent impairment constituted by” the following:
- Spinal cord injuries (paralysis of a leg, an arm, or the trunk of the body);
- Amputation of certain limbs which result in the loss of use of the limb (including arms, hands, feet, or legs);
- Severe closed-head or brain injury;
- Second- or third-degree burns coving at least 25 percent of the entire body or third-degree burns covering at least 5 percent of the hands and face;
- Blindness (total loss of vision); or
- Loss of reproductive organs resulting in loss of ability to procreate.
Let Our Lawyers Help You Today
If you or a loved one has suffered from any type of injury, catastrophic or not, while receiving medical care or treatment, you may be entitled to compensation. Previous limits on non-economic damages may no longer apply in your case. Every case is unique, so it is critically important to speak with an experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers as soon as possible. The lawyers at Pita, Weber & Del Prado are available to advise you of your rights in your individual situation. Time is of the essence, as statutes of limitations may apply in each case. Call Pita, Weber & Del Prado in Miami today at (305) 670-2889 or send us a message online for a free consultation.