Florida Supreme Court Declares Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Caps Unconstitutional
In 2005, the Florida Legislature capitulated to the demands (and political donations) of the medical malpractice insurance industry and passed a law capping non-economic damages for surviving family members of anyone killed in Florida as a result of medical malpractice.
In 2006, Michelle McCall was a young mother who tragically died as the result of the malpractice of several Air Force physicians during childbirth in the Florida panhandle. Ms. McCall left behind a son, and her two parents. The trial court that heard that case found the evidence in the case warranted an award of $500,000.00 to Ms. McCall’s surviving son for his pain and suffering, and $750,000.00 to each of her parents for theirs.
However, because of Florida’s cap on damages passed the year before, the trial court was obligated to reduce the award to an aggregate of $1 million to be divided between the child and parents. Had Ms. McCall had additional children, each of their claims would require a further division of the $1 million aggregate cap.
Ms. McCall’s case (McCall v. United States) finally made it to the Florida Supreme Court last year. Just last week, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the caps on damages in medical malpractice wrongful death cases were unconstitutional. The Court reasoned that the caps were violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution.
The Court determined that the caps imposed an unfair and illogical burden on large families because each family member of a large family would automatically receive less compensation than members of small families — everything else being equal — because of the caps, regardless of the evidence of loss.
Additionally, the Florida Supreme Court found that there really was no “crisis” or any other real or rational relationship between caps on non-economic damages and the health of the Florida medical industry. Therefore, there was really no good policy reason to have caps on non-economic damages in wrongful death medical malpractice cases. This is a good decision for anyone who has lost a family member in a medical negligence case.
If you have any questions regarding caps on damages, or a Florida medical malpractice case, call Winter Park medical malpractice attorneys Kim Cullen and Robert Hemphill at 407-254-4901.