The State of Florida has changed laws on numerous occasions on the amount someone can receive for a malpractice claim. This is also known as a “medical malpractice cap.” This article discusses Florida medical malpractice caps and provides a brief history on the topic.
Florida Medical Malpractice Caps: Current Laws
In June, 2017, the State of Florida ruled against imposing an economic cap on medical malpractice claims in a Supreme Court decision. Specifically, The Florida Supreme Court ruled:
“Policy that relies upon discrimination against Florida families is not rational or reasonable when it attempts to utilize aggregate caps to create unreasonable classifications,” and struck down the law.;”
In other words, capping the monetary amount someone can receive for damages was ruled “unconstitutional.”
Legal History: McCall vs. USA
In June of 2005, Michelle McCall was receiving prenatal medical care at the United States Air Force clinic as a dependent of the United States Air Force. Ms. McCall was elected for the family practice department of the United States Air Force to provide her and her unborn child prenatal care and delivery services throughout her pregnancy. Ms. McCall’s pregnancy was normal and typical until the last trimester. On February 21, 2006, test results revealed that Ms. McCall’s blood pressure was high and she was suffering from preeclampsia. Due to the serious change in her medical condition, Ms. McCall was induced immediately.
Ultimately, Ms. McCall delivered a healthy child. However, the medical staff failed to timely notice that Ms. McCall lost a lot of blood giving birth. As a result, Ms. McCall lost consciousness and died on February 27, 2006.
Ms. McCall’s family through her Estate sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671–80. At the conclusion of a two (2) day bench trial, the District Court found the United State’s Air Force liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for economic damages in the amount of $980,462.40.
The District Court found that the noneconomic damages due to Ms. McCall’s death to be $2,000,000.00 However, the District Court applied Florida’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice claims and reduced the award to $1,000,000.00 for noneconomic damages. The District Court also rejected the Plaintiff’s motion challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s statutory cap under both the Florida and United States Constitutions.
Appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Florida’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution as well as the Takings Clause of Article X, § 6(a) of the Florida Constitution.
Interestingly yet, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals certified the following questions of law to the Florida Supreme Court – Does Florida’s cap on noneconomic damage pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 766.118: (i) violate the right to equal protection under Article I, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution?; (ii) violate the right of access to the courts under Article I, Section 21 of the Florida Constitution?; (iii) violate the right to trial by jury under Article I, Section 22 of the Florida Constitution?; and (iv) violate the separation of powers guaranteed by Article II, Section 3 and Article V, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution?
About The Writer
David Di Pietro is a medical malpractice attorney in Fort Lauderdale and the founding partner of Di Pietro Partners. David Di Pietro is a former prosecutor and handles all medical malpractice matters, including the representation of “bare” doctors.
The information in this article site was developed by Di Pietro Partners. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. The transmission and receipt of information from this article does not form or constitute an attorney-client relationship with Di Pietro Partners. Persons receiving the information from this article should not act upon the information provided without seeking professional legal counsel.