Florida Supreme Court to Consider Constitutionality of Medical Malpractice Damages Cap

doctor-563428_960_720The recent case of North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan has raised important legal questions regarding Florida’s medical malpractice laws, particularly when it comes to the limit on monetary damages that a plaintiff can recover in litigation. The Fourth District Court of Appeals recently concluded that these statutory limitations were unconstitutional. The defendant has appealed the issue, and the Florida Supreme Court has granted review.

The plaintiff underwent a surgical procedure to address carpal tunnel syndrome in her wrist. During the procedure, a nurse punctured the plaintiff’s esophagus but failed to identify the perforation. Although the plaintiff informed the doctors after the surgery that she was experiencing severe pain in her chest, she was discharged and sent home with painkillers. The next day, the plaintiff’s neighbor found her in a non-responsive state, and she was rushed to the emergency room. The plaintiff was placed into a drug-induced coma, required multiple invasive treatments to address the injury, and continues to experience complications along with pain, anxiety, depression, and reduced independence.

According to Florida Statutes Section 766.118, a plaintiff cannot recover more than $500,000 in non-economic damages from a medical practitioner. This category of recovery encompasses damages like pain and suffering and diminished quality of life. Damages of this nature typically are not easily quantifiable, like medical bills or lost wages. When it comes to non-practitioners, the cap is raised to $750,000. If the patient enters a permanent vegetative state or dies as a result of the practitioner’s negligence, the claimant can recover up to $1.5 million in non-economic damages.

These amounts apply to the plaintiff’s total recovery even in cases involving multiple defendants. There are some exceptions and procedural particularities to these rules. The statutes provide certain factors that a court can consider when determining whether a case warrants exceeding the damages cap. Some of these factors include whether a manifest injustice would result and whether the defendant’s negligence resulted in a catastrophic injury. If the Florida Supreme Court rules that the statutory caps on damages are unconstitutional per se, however, a plaintiff no longer would need to prove that his or her case fits into one of the exceptions to avoid being subject to a limit on non-economic damages. Therefore, much is at stake for victims of medical malpractice throughout Florida, not just for the patient in this particular case.

If you or someone you love has been injured as the result of a medical professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our nursing home negligence lawyers have assisted many Southwest Florida residents with holding a medical professional responsible for their injuries, including victims and their families in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about the legal remedies available to you, so call us at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.

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