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medical malpractice

Another appellate court finds medmal caps unconstitutional

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

A second appeals court now has declared unconstitutional the state law limiting the amount of money for pain and suffering when medical malpractice results in injury.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland this week joined the 4th District’s opinion regarding caps on what are known as “noneconomic damages.” The Florida Supreme Court still is reviewing that opinion, however.

In 2014, the high court struck down pain-and-suffering damages limits in medical malpractice cases where the patient died.

A year later, it ruled that the 2003 law capping medical malpractice awards at $500,000 could not be applied retroactively in cases where the patient was injured but survived.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, called a special legislative session in 2003 to overhaul the law governing medical malpractice lawsuits. Doctors said big-money jury awards were driving up their insurance premiums; some even stopped practicing in Florida.

The state limited noneconomic damages from death or injury to $500,000 per plaintiff, and no more than $1 million from all defendants in a single lawsuit.

The Supreme Court’s 2015 decision said the “legal analyses for personal injury damages and wrongful death damages are not the same.”

But on Wednesday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 2nd District agreed with a 4th District finding that “caps are unconstitutional not only in wrongful death actions … but also in personal injury suits (because) they violate equal protection.”

The underlying case involved a woman whose suit says her prematurely born daughter wasn’t treated properly at Peace River Regional Medical Center in Port Charlotte in 2010, resulting in the child being “fully dependent on others for the rest of her life and need(ing) 24-hour care.”

She was originally awarded “total damages in the amount of $9,637,134, including $4,000,000 in noneconomic damages,” later reduced to $6.7 million.

The case now under review by the Supreme Court was the 4th District’s decision to reinstate a $4.7 million damage award.

There, Susan Kalitan sued North Broward Hospital District and others over complications from carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. She said her esophagus was punctured during the administering of anesthesia.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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