Are Wrongful Death Damage Caps Constitutional?
Prior to March of this year, Florida had non-economic damage caps on medical malpractice claims resulting in wrongful death. This meant that any award of damages for nonfinancial losses, such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, disfigurement and loss of companionship, were capped at an arbitrary statutory amount.
So what changed in March? The Florida Supreme Court struck down the non-economic damage caps for wrongful death in the case Estate of McCall v. US, 2014 Fla LEXIS 933 (Fla. Mar. 13, 2014). Plaintiff trial attorneys applauded the decision, as the caps take the determination of damage awards out of the hands of juries who examine the facts. Caps on wrongful death damages are extremely unfair to the families of innocent people who died due to medical malpractice.
For example, in the case cited above, McCall was a pregnant woman admitted to a hospital for severe preeclampsia. Preventable medical errors were made by the doctors and hospital, and McCall died after childbirth from cardiac arrest. The jury determined the woman’s parents were entitled to $750,000 each and that her son was entitled to $500,000. However, due to the caps, the amount would have been reduced to $1 million total to be split by the parties.
The Florida Supreme Court held that the wrongful death damage cap was unconstitutional, as it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The Court held that the statute imposed unfair and illogical burdens on innocent family members suffering due to wrongful death.
What Will Happen to Medical Malpractice Personal Injury Claims?
This is a very significant decision for Floridians and an important step in protecting families from medical malpractice. When someone dies due to the negligence of another, the only remedy the law affords is money as compensation. No court order can bring a loved one back after wrongful death. The law allows juries, after close consideration of the facts and evidence, to determine best what is owed to family members after a preventable tragedy.
Unfortunately, damage caps remain on personal injury medical malpractice claims. Richard Shapiro and the Shapiro Law Group would like to see this law changed. If you have been injured due to possible medical malpractice, our attorneys offer a free case review. We will examine your medical records and unique situation to determine what legal options are available.
Shapiro Law Group – Medical Malpractice Attorneys Serving the Tampa Bay Area