Florida malpractice suit challenges state's cap on noneconomic damages
Eight years after being enacted, Florida's $1 million cap on damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases is about to be challenged in the state's highest court.
The case involves the death of a 20-year-old woman following the birth of her child. The patient had been diagnosed with hypertension and preeclampsia. Following her death, her family successfully sued and was awarded $3 million, including $2 million in pain and suffering damages. However, due to state caps on non-economic damages, the state reduced the pain and suffering award by half.
The woman's family has since appealed the claim and will now be heard by the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether the cap violates the state constitution.
“Even if this Court accepts at face value the dubious notion that limiting jury awards in medical malpractice cases will significantly reduce doctors liability premiums and ensure the availability of quality medical care for all Floridians, it is manifestly arbitrary and unfair to impose the cost of this public benefit on the relatively few, most seriously harmed victims of medical malpractice,” attorneys representing the family of the deceased woman argued in brief submitted to the court.
Numerous groups, including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the American Bar Association and the Florida Justice Association, have filed amicus briefs to challenge the cap's constitutionality. At the same time, Florida's Attorney General and several medical groups are filing briefs supporting the cap.