Florida Court Rules Against Medical Malpractice Caps In Personal Injury Cases

Posted on July 20, 2015 by Shapiro Law Group

A recent Florida court ruling gives injured victims of medical malpractice an opportunity to receive more compensation than previously available. This decision overturns a law from more than a decade ago.

Back in 2003, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed into law caps on the amount of non-economic damages victims of medical malpractice could receive. The law limited non-economic damages from medical malpractice cases to between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on specific circumstances.

There are two types of damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases, economic and non-economic. Economic damages refer to hospital bills, rehabilitation costs and other monetary losses.

Non-economic damages are often called “pain and suffering damages”, taking into account the severe emotional cost of sustaining a catastrophic injury. For example, a surgeon operates on the wrong part of the body, causing a spinal cord injury and paralysis to a patient. The pain and suffering for that individual would be extraordinary, as his or her quality of life would be significantly reduced. For example, the person may lose companionship and suffer mental anguish or humiliation because of his or her injury.

In a challenge to the 2003 law, a South Florida appeals court ruled earlier this month that non-economic damage limits are unconstitutional in personal injury cases. This is a similar line of thinking to last year’s 4th District Court of Appeals decision, which rejected non-economic damage limits for wrongful death cases.

What Is An Example Of Medical Malpractice Involving Personal Injury?

The recent decision ruled on the case of a Florida woman who was catastrophically injured during anesthesia. After the procedure, doctors sent her home, even after complaints of chest and back pain. Within one day, she was back at the hospital, but with a perforated esophagus and requiring immediate surgery.

A jury awarded the woman $4 million in non-economic damages, but a judge applied the 2003 law to her case, limiting her non-economic damages by $2 million. Her case involved personal injury, and at the time the damages caps applied. This court decision could be a major help to patients who have been catastrophically injured from medical negligence.

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