Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

Good news this Friday, the Florida Supreme Court just became the latest state to strike down damage caps for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits. The court ruled the limits unconstitutional and only shielded doctors and hospitals from liability, at the expense of injured patients. Our team of medical malpractice attorneys digs into this case and others like it throughout the country.

Damage caps for pain and suffering in malpractice cases are common in conservative states trying to lower insurance premiums for doctors and other medical practitioners. Supporters believe that setting maximum dollar amounts for damages from medical malpractice saves doctors, hospitals and insurance companies from having to pay for “frivolous” lawsuits and other baseless claims.

In reality, frivolous lawsuits rarely even make it to court, and if they do, no jury would award a patient clearly only minimally injured millions of dollars for pain and suffering. Setting maximum amounts for these damages hurt those most vulnerable: patients grievously or permanently injured by negligent medical care.

The state Supreme Court explains its decision through a series of examples to illustrate how arbitrary and unfair damage caps really are. They drew one example, where one negligent physician injures three separate patients, who all file claims against him. Patient A was injured moderately and suffers pain and disability of a month; patient B is severely injured and suffers for about one year; and patient C is permanently injured, suffering disability for the remainder of her life.

Say patients A and B were both awarded $100,000 for pain and suffering and plaintiff C is awarded $1 million for lifelong pain and disability. Under damage caps, the award would be automatically reduced to $250,000, without justification, even though the $1 million was reasonable and fair. The court concluded that the maximum cap “offends the fundamental notion of equal justice under the law.”

Only Patients in Crisis

We recently wrote about an particular egregious case of medical malpractice in Texas, where damage caps are currently set at $250,000. As stated, caps were initially created to respond to a “medical malpractice crisis,” which was based on the claim that doctors’ insurance premiums were skyrocketing due to litigation costs.

In response to this, the Court wrote that such a malpractice “crisis” does not and has never existed, as it is not supported by any available data. In fact, jury trials and awards only make up a small fraction of medical malpractice insurance payments.

At present, 19 states have laws establishing caps on malpractice damages. Among those states, only two, or 10.5%, have experienced static or declining physician insurance rates. In contrast, among states without damage caps, physician insurance rates have declined or stayed the same in 18.7% of states.

Similarly, between 1991 and 2002, the average malpractice insurance premium paid by physicians rose by 48% in states with damage caps, while the average payment for physicians in states without caps rose by just 35%. There is now a plethora of data showing that damage caps are nothing more than shields to protect negligent hospitals and physicians, and actually infringe on the constitutional right to trial by jury.

Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have been advocating on behalf of victims of malpractice for nearly 30 years. We have extensive knowledge and success in this area, and are happy to see the Florida Supreme Court preserve and fight for the rights of our constitution. If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed by medical negligence, contact our firm today. Our case reviews are free and available to injured patients nationwide, including Florida.

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