GAME CHANGER: BIG VICTORY FOR THOSE WHO DIE AT THE HAND OF NEGLIGENT DOCTORS
Florida Appeals Court Rejects Caps on Damages in Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Cases
In a very recent decision that could greatly benefit those injured by the negligence of a doctor or hospital, the medical malpractice and wrongful death attorneys at Goldberg, Racila, D'Alessandro & Noone would like consumers to know that the Florida Supreme Court just ruled that Florida Statute 766.188 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution because the cap “bears no rational relationship to a legitimate state objective.”
In other words, the Court agreed with what medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers have always felt – the current caps, or limits, on the amount of financial compensation a person can be awarded for a catastrophic injury or wrongful death, are unconstitutional. The caps were enacted back in 2003, and personal injury attorneys have long held that this severely and unfairly reduces the ability for a plaintiff to recover adequate compensation for their injuries.
Good News for The Injured
The hotly-debated topic, involving lobbyists and lawyers for the medical malpractice insurance industry, revolves around the difference between economic and non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Economic damages are defined as actual financial losses, while non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental anguish, inconvenience and the loss of enjoyment of life. Non-economic damages are much more difficult to calculate, and previously were limited to certain amounts, based on factors like the number of plaintiffs and the types of defendants involved in a lawsuit. As an example, if a doctor caused a serious injury or even death, the financial limits were set at $500,000 and $1M damage caps, but those caps were less if the case involved emergency care.
The appeals court ruling said in part: “(The) caps are unconstitutional not only in wrongful death actions, but also in personal injury suits as they violate equal protection. … Whereas the caps on non-economic damages in (the section of state law) fully compensate those individuals with non-economic damages in an amount that falls below the caps, injured parties with non-economic damages in excess of the caps are not fully compensated.”
Medical Malpractice Caps: Argument Not Supported by Facts The medical malpractice insurance industry has long argued that Florida is in crisis, resulting in exorbitant medical malpractice insurance premiums that are quickly driving doctors from the state. However, the recent Court ruling found that those arguments “were completely undermined by authoritative government reports.”
In other words, those seeking more punitive caps on non-economic damages were operating on a set of bogus data.
The fear, at least according to proponents of the caps, was that there were so many ‘runaway' verdicts in medical malpractice cases in Florida, unfairly placing a financial hardship upon those who were ordered to pay large financial settlements. But, the facts just do not bear that out. In fact, even the deputy director of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, “found no evidence to suggest that there had been a large increase in the number of frivolous lawsuits filed in Florida, nor was there any evidence of excessive jury verdicts in the prior three years.”
Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies: HUGE PROFITS
During all the arguments brought forth in these most recent proceedings, the Court was able to uncover certain facts relating to the amount of profits being raked in by medical malpractice insurance companies. Even though professional (medical) malpractice actions accounted for less than 1% of all legal actions filed in Florida for the period of 2011-2012, the Court stated that “the profits of those (medical malpractice insurance companies) would probably shock most concerned.” Case in point: Between 2003 and 2010, four insurance companies offering medical malpractice insurance coverage in Florida reported a cumulative increase in net income of MORE THAN 4,300 PERCENT.
For a complete edition of the Court's ruling, click here. One of the most compelling excerpts includes this little gem: “. . . the cap on noneconomic damage serves no purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members.” If you have questions about medical malpractice that may have resulted in the death of a friend or family member, we are always available to answer them. Call our Fort Myers office at 239-461-5508, or just complete this simple form and one of our medical malpractice attorneys will contact you immediately. It doesn't cost a thing to sit down and discuss your circumstances, and if we take your case, you will owe us nothing unless we are successful on your behalf.