The Supreme Court of Florida recently ruled that statutory caps on medical malpractice wrongful death noneconomic damages in section 716.118 of the Florida Statutes are unconstitutional. Noneconomic damages refers to nonfinancial losses including pain and suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, and other nonfinancial losses.
In 2003 as part of an overhaul of medical malpractice law, then Governor Bush signed a law imposing a $500,000 limit per claimant on noneconomic damages in lawsuits involving personal injury or wrongful death arising from medical malpractice, but in no case could noneconomic damages awardable exceed $1 million, regardless of the number of claimants involved. The Supreme Court in Estate of McCall v. Unites States of America held that, “the statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages fails because it imposes unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties when an act of medical negligence gives rise to multiple claimants.” The Court went through an extensive review and discussion of the law’s creation of caps as an alleged response to a health care crisis in Florida. The Court concluded that the available data shows no current evidence of a medical malpractice crisis in Florida justifying this arbitrary limitation on damages that a jury may deem appropriate at trial. It was decided that this statute violated the right to equal protection under Article I, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution.
This ruling was a victory for Florida citizens. In the Supreme Court’s own words, “the cap on noneconomic damages serves no purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members.” A Wrongful Death attorney can again recover fair and just damages for those who deserve them in the most serious of medical malpractice claims.