In 2003, Florida was dealing with the crisis of high medical malpractice insurance rates and the threat of clinicians fleeing to states with more favorable laws. Similar to many other states, Florida enacted caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases as a way of reducing insurance costs and attracting clinicians.

This summer, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals found that the caps are unconstitutional because they violate equal protection. The appeals court based its decision on a Florida Supreme Court decision that declared caps unconstitutional in wrongful death cases, and applied this to personal injury cases as well. In response, the North Broward Hospital District, along with other defendants in the original case, has asked the state’s Supreme Court to review the issue.

The original case involved a patient who went into surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. She had a perforated esophagus after tubes were inserted into her mouth and esophagus as part of the anesthesia process. The patient’s original jury award was $4.7 million, with about $4 million of that in non-economic damages. After the malpractice caps were applied, the award was reduced by about $2 million.

Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, filed a 23-page “friend of the court” brief, rebutting the decision by the Court of Appeals and encouraging the state’s Supreme Court to uphold the 2003 legislation. “[The case] failed to rebut any of the exhaustive research, testimony, or data supporting the conclusion that a noneconomic damages cap is a critical, necessary method of addressing a medical malpractice crisis that was undermining the Legislature’s goal of making high-quality health care accessible,” said the attorney general in her brief.

References

  1. Saunders J. Bondi defends medical malpractice limits. The St. Augustine Record. December 16, 2015. http://staugustine.com/news/2015-12-16/bondi-defends-medical-malpractice-limits#.VnlmXcYrJD-. Accessed December 22, 2015.
  2. Saunders J. State Attorney General Bondi defends medical malpractice limits. The Ledger. December 15, 2015. http://www.theledger.com/article/20151215/news/151219673. Accessed December 22, 2015.
  3. Malpractice cap could impact quality of care. The Sun Sentinel. December 17, 2015. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/letters/fl-letter-medicare-1213-20151216-story.html. Accessed December 22, 2015.
  4. Saunders J. Attorney general defends medical malpractice limits. Daily Record. December 17, 2015. http://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/showstory.php?Story_id=546690. Accessed December 22, 2015.