In its opinion filed on October 26, 2016, the District Court of Appeal of Florida Second District (“Appellate Court”) agreed with the 2015 opinion of the District Court of Appeal of Florida Fourth District that held that the section 766.118 caps on noneconomic damages are unconstitutional not only in wrongful death actions, as the Florida Supreme Court had previously held, but also in personal injury claims, such as medical malpractice cases, inasmuch as they violate equal protection.
Section 766.118 states, in part:
(2) LIMITATION ON NONECONOMIC DAMAGES FOR NEGLIGENCE OF PRACTITIONERS.—
(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), if the negligence resulted in a permanent vegetative state or death, the total noneconomic damages recoverable from all practitioners, regardless of the number of claimants, under this paragraph shall not exceed $1 million. In cases that do not involve death or permanent vegetative state, the patient injured by medical negligence may recover noneconomic damages not to exceed $1 million if:
1. The trial court determines that a manifest injustice would occur unless increased noneconomic damages are awarded, based on a finding that because of the special circumstances of the case, the noneconomic harm sustained by the injured patient was particularly severe; and
The Florida Supreme Court had stated that the statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages fails because it imposes unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties when an act of medical negligence gives rise to multiple claimants. In such circumstances, medical malpractice claimants do not receive the same rights to full compensation because of arbitrarily diminished compensation for legally cognizable claims. Further, the statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages does not bear a rational relationship to the stated purpose that the cap is purported to address, the alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in Florida.
However, the Florida Supreme Court limited its analysis to wrongful death cases, stating that “[t]he legal analyses for personal injury damages and wrongful death damages are not the same.”
The Florida Supreme Court will have the final say whether the section 766.118 caps are unconstitutional in Florida medical malpractice cases.
If you or a loved one suffered serious harm due to medical negligence in Florida or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in Florida or in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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