Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Statutory Caps on Medical Malpractice Noneconomic Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Statutory caps on medical malpractice noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases are not valid. Noneconomic damages are best defined as: compensations claimed against intangible harms such as pain and emotional distress, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, sterility and quality-of-life losses.
In March of 2014, the Florida Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision on statutory caps in the case of Estate of McCall v. United States, No. SC11-1148 (Fla. March 13, 2014).
Michelle McCall was a 20-year-old pregnant Air Force dependent who was admitted to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center with severe preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy.
McCall lost a significant amount of blood and did not deliver the placenta after the delivery. The hospital staff attempted to stop the blood loss, but McCall went into shock and cardiac arrest and never regained consciousness.
McCall’s estate filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death suit against the United States in the District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The district court determined that there were economic damages, or financial losses, in the amount of $980,462.
The district court also determined that there were noneconomic damages of $2 million. However, Florida law limited the recovery of noneconomic damages to $1 million.
The case eventually found its way to the Florida Supreme Court, which decided that the cap violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution. The cap imposed unfair and illogical restrictions on injured parties.
Imagine a case where multiple individuals brought suit against one healthcare provider, but their combined claims were limited to $1 million. This would be unfair if a jury were to determine that each injured party was entitled to $1 million apiece. The Florida Supreme Court struck down the cap.
This decision is very significant for individuals dealing with medical malpractice and wrongful deaths. It can be very difficult to know what you are entitled to when dealing with medical malpractice, so it is generally a best practice to contact a medical malpractice attorney if you have any questions, especially in light of the recent case.
Shapiro Law Group – Medical Malpractice Attorneys Serving the Tampa Bay Area