Florida medical malpractice lawyer and doctor of chiropractic discusses medical malpractice damage caps.
Many states including Florida have decided to cap damages in medical malpractice cases taking the position that there is some kind of crisis in medicine because of medical malpractice, which is just not true. Florida has a number of caps related to non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, which ranges from $150,000 to $1,500,000 depending on the type of provider and extent of the injuries or death.
Missouri Supreme Court Strikes Down Caps
In July 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court in Watts v. Family Medical Center overturned its non-economic damage caps. A few years ago the Missouri legislature limited non-economic (pain & suffering damages) to $350,000. In Watts, a child was born with a brain injury and his mother filed a medical malpractice claim. A jury awarded $1.45 million in damages, which the trial court reduced to $350,000 per statute. The plaintiff appealed and the case eventually made it to the Missouri Supreme Court. In finding the statute on constitutional, the court said:
- The non-economic damage violated the plaintiff's right to trial by jury guaranteed by the Missouri constitution.
- The cap on damages had no regard to the facts of the case.
- Statutory caps were not allowed with the constitution was adopted.
Florida's Damage Cap is Being Challenged
Currently, the matter of McCall v. U.S. is pending before the Florida Supreme Court.
McCall involved a mother and wife who died while receiving medical care and treatment through military service healthcare providers. This case went forward under the Federal Tort Claims Act, in which the plaintiff gives up their right to a jury trial and the matter is tried before a Federal Court Judge. The Judge found that the doctors committed malpractice and issued a judgment that included $2 million in non-economic damages. The US moved to reduce the verdict to $1 million under the statutory cap. The matter was appealed through the federal system and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals requested the Florida Supreme Court answer a certified question about the Florida constitution.
Like the Missouri case, the Florida case is arguing that the cap on damages restricts access to courts. It will be interesting to see what the Florida Supreme Court does in this matter. It can easily punt and reject the appeal stating that this matter was tried under the Federal Tort Claims Act that already limits folks access to the courts and right to a jury trial.
What do you think about Florida's medical malpractice damage caps?