Second Florida Appellate Court Holds Caps On Noneconomic Damages In Medical Malpractice Cases Unconstitutional

162017_132140396847214_292624_nIn 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.

(a) With respect to a cause of action for personal injury or wrongful death arising from medical negligence of practitioners, regardless of the number of such practitioner defendants, noneconomic damages shall not exceed $500,000 per claimant. No practitioner shall be liable for more than $500,000 in noneconomic damages, regardless of the number of claimants.

(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

2. The trier of fact determines that the defendant’s negligence caused a catastrophic injury to the patient.
(c) The total noneconomic damages recoverable by all claimants from all practitioner defendants under this subsection shall not exceed $1 million in the aggregate.
Fourth District Opinion
The Fourth District case had extended to Florida medical malpractice cases the holding in a 2014 Florida Supreme Court case that concluded that the cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages in section 766.118 violates the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution, reasoning that section 766.118 applies to both personal injury and wrongful death actions and therefore the section 766.118 caps are unconstitutional not only in wrongful death actions but also in personal injury suits because they violate equal protection. The Fourth District reasoned that there is no real distinction between a single claimant in a personal injury case who suffers noneconomic damages in excess of the caps and the situation where there are multiple claimants in a wrongful death case.
Florida Supreme Court Opinion

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.”

Source

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.

Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys who may assist you.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 at 5:18 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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