Since 2003, restrictions on the amount of money that can be collected by victims of medical malpractice have been in effect. Specifically, the limits pertain to non-economic damages. A recent case working through the Florida legal system is the first one to seriously challenge these limits.
When the limits were set, state legislation wanted to make Florida a more attractive option for physicians to come to and practice. A cap of either $500,000 or $1 million, depending on the circumstances, was put into effect.
It was reported that the state was losing a lot of physicians to other states because the insurance premiums they had to pay here were too high. Medical malpractice suits were causing these premiums to skyrocket. In order to stop this, officials limited damages that could be awarded. However, this decision only hurt patients.
The estate of one Florida woman who died as a result of receiving substandard medical care is now challenging the financial caps. A federal judge previously ruled that the woman received poor care and awarded her family a sum of $2 million. In accordance with the state law, the award was lowered to $1 million. However, because the woman had been treated by Air Force medical staff, the estate of the woman brought a suit against the federal government.
It is reported that by bringing this before the Florida Supreme Court, this case is the first and best chance at challenging the arbitrary cap. While the damage caps do not violate any federal constitutional rights, it is argued that they do violate Florida state constitutional rights that guarantee residents to have access to the courts.
Many people have a great deal of interest in this case. The ruling will have a significant impact on future medical malpractice cases. If the cap is overturned, it could greatly benefit victims who have suffered as a result of negligence by doctors and negligence.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Court case tests state's cap on med-mal damages," Jim Saunders, Feb. 8, 2012