The Florida Supreme Court in Estate of Michelle McCall v. United States overturned a 2003 law that imposed arbitrary limits on noneconomic damages in wrongful death claims. This is a tremendous victory for Florida patients and families. It also sends a message throughout the U.S about the myths of medical malpractice lawsuits. THERE IS NO MALPRACTICE CRISIS AND THERE IS NO REASON TO LIMIT WHAT CAN BE AWARDED FOR PAIN AND SUFFERING IN MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIMS!
The Court ruled that Florida’s statutory limits on compensatory damages for noneconomic harm violated plaintiffs’ rights of equal protection, trial by jury, access to the courts and separation of powers under the Florida Constitution. For a copy of the decision go to: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2014/sc11-1148.pdf
The Court went even further, noting, “… the statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages does not bear a rational relationship to the stated purpose that the cap is purported to address, the alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in Florida.”
While the legislature claimed that there were too many frivolous lawsuits and that the increase in medical liability insurance premiums was the cause of doctors leaving Florida, the Court disagreed and wrote, “… the finding by the Legislature and the Task Force that Florida was in the midst of a bona fide medical malpractice crisis, threatening the access of Floridians to healthcare, is dubious and questionable at the very best.”
The truth is that Insurance Companies are Hurting Doctors and creating lies about the need to limit the number of lawsuits and the amount that can be awarded in meritorious claims. The court also noted that between 2003 and 2010 there were four med mal insurance companies with an increase in their net income of more than 4300 %. With that kind of income, the court wrote, “the insurance industry should pass savings onto Florida physicians in the form of reduced malpractice insurance premiums.”
This decision will hopefully stop the myth that has poisoned so many juries throughout the U.S. There is no malpractice crisis and there is no need to reduce what an injured party can recover from a jury when a doctor or hospital causes catastrophic injury or death. To treat doctors and hospitals differently than other defendants is unwarranted. This cry of too many lawsuits and “frivolous lawsuits” has caused more harm to patients injured by medical mistakes than the average person can imagine. It has resulted in the inability to pursue lawsuits due to the cost of litigation and the negative attitude that jurors have had for so long in terms of holding doctors responsible when they cause harm. Hopefully Ohio will follow suit and find the law that limits the amount that can be awarded to an injured patient by a jury to be unconstitutional as well. We can only hope!