Florida Supreme Court Rejects Caps On Non-Economic Damages In Wrongful Death Medical Malpractices Cases

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Florida Caps On Non-Economic Damages

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This is BIG news for the plaintiffs’ personal injury and medical malpractice bar in Florida. Many Florida plaintiffs’ personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys have been waiting on the edge of their seat for this Florida Supreme Court decision (Estate of McCall v. U.S.).

Economic Versus Non-Economic Damages In Florida Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Cases

In wrongful death medical malpractice cases, damages are generally divided between economic, or actual financial losses, and non-economic, which includes harder-to-calculate aspects of damages, like pain and suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, and the loss of enjoyment of life.

(Update: new Florida court rules that damages caps should be removed from non-wrongful death personal injury medical malpractice cases, too.)

Victory For Florida Personal Injury And Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Victory-Regarding-NonEconomic-Damages-In-Florida-Medical-Malpractice-Wrongful-Death-LawsuitsFlorida has statutory caps on non-economic damages in wrongful death medical malpractice cases (Florida Statute Section 766.118). Many Florida personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys have long said these caps violate numerous constitutional rights. Today, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with us.

No Rational Relationship

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that F.S. 766.118 violates the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution because the cap “bears no rational relationship to a legitimate state objective.”

Bogus Data

The Court also concluded that the Florida Legislature’s conclusion that Florida is in the midst of a medical malpractice insurance crisis, resulting in increased medical malpractice liability premiums, and doctors leaving Florida, was “completely undermined by authoritative government reports.”

Proponents of Medical Malpractice Caps Didn’t Have The Facts On Their Side

Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Lawyer Orlando Florida Those reports demonstrated that the numbers of Florida physicians have increased in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. Further, the court referenced testimony from the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration saying “they could not cite any incidents where because of a medical malpractice crisis patients were denied some type of care or directed someplace else.” The court even cited data showing that medical malpractice premiums increased at a slower rate in states without caps on damages. (Importantly for doctors, the court noted that even assuming the caps resulted in lower insurance payouts, there was no guarantee that those savings would be passed along to doctors, rather than just causing a windfall to insurance companies (citing the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which said “[t]hese companies happily pay less out in tort-reform states while continuing to collect higher premiums from doctors.”))

Runaway Jury Verdicts In Florida Wrongful Death / Medical Malpractice Cases Are A Myth

The court further concluded that the data simply did not support the notion of supposed runaway jury verdicts. The court’s ultimate conclusion was that the supposed “crisis” regarding medical malpractice jury verdicts simply does not exist. Since I have previously discussed the myth of frivolous lawsuits, I enjoyed reading this quote:

“. . . [T]he deputy director of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation testified that he found no evidence to suggest that there had been a large increase in the number of frivolous lawsuits filed in Florida, nor was there any evidence of excessive jury verdicts in the prior three years.”

The court ultimately agreed with the Supreme Court of Texas, which concluded:

“[I]n the context of persons catastrophically injured by medical negligence, we believe it is unreasonable and arbitrary to limit their recovery in a speculative experiment to determine whether liability rates will decrease.”

Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies Were Reaping Astronomical Profits

Florida Wrongful Death AttorneyAnother amazing fact recounted by the court is that during fiscal year 2011-2012, professional malpractice and product liability actions comprised only .76 percent of actions filed in Florida circuit courts (down from an also whopping 3.2% in 2003-2004). On the flipside, the court recounted stats and data showing that the financial state of Florida medical malpractice insurance carriers is strong. Indeed, the court stated that the profits of those companies “would probably shock most concerned.” In fact, between 2003 and 2010, four insurance companies offering medical malpractice insurance coverage in Florida cumulatively reported an increase in their net income of “more than 4300 percent.”

An End To The Punishment Of Florida Medical Malpractice Victims

Florida Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death LawyerI absolutely love that the court echoed sentiments that I have been expressing for a while by saying:

“. . . the cap on noneconomic damage serves no purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members.”

This is a game changer for Florida personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys and an absolute victory for those wrongfully killed at the hands of a negligent doctor. If you would like to know more specifics, you can read the Florida Supreme Court decision for yourself here. For more information about wrongful death actions in Florida, please visit my wrongful death website

Text Or Call 24 Hr Attorney Hotline (407) 803-2139

Update July 10, 2015: A lower appellate court has removed med mal caps from ALL personal injury med mal cases, not just wrongful death cases.

Other Medical Malpractice Posts:

One Florida Court Removes Damages Caps In ALL Medical Malpractice Cases

Florida Medical Malpractice: Basics & Pitfalls

Medical Malpractice: Case Value

Why You Should Call Tina

  • Where Can You Hire Me?
    If you really want an honest opinion of the strengths or weaknesses of your medical malpractice wrongful death case, then I hope you will call me today for a free consultation. I would be glad to analyze the specific facts of your case and give you my unbiased opinion. My offices are located in Orlando and Winter Garden, Florida, but I accept cases throughout Florida or Georgia, including Ocoee, Clermont, Lakeland, Dr. Phillips, Altamonte Springs, Apopka, Casselberry, Maitland, Winter Park, Winter Springs, Mount Dora, Tavares, Eustis, Leesburg, Kissimmee, Deland, Deltona, Daytona Beach, Heathrow, Melbourne, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Valdosta, Macon & Atlanta.
  • What Are Wrongful Death Claims Anyway?

    Wrongful Death Cases may stem from either medical malpractice or some other type of accident, such as a car, truck or motorcycle accident. If you are unsure whether you might have a viable wrongful death case, call me today for a free, no obligation consultation. No Fee if No Recovery, Excludes Costs.

  • Disclaimer
    These are my personal opinions and impressions based on my experiences as an attorney. I have not reviewed every factual situation, nor have I been involved in every case ever pursued by any attorney, nor am I familiar with how every firm operates. So I could well be wrong about any or all of the above. You should never rely upon my opinion unless I accept your case and we enter a representation agreement.



About the Author:

Tina Willis is a serious injury, accident & death lawyer, based in Orlando, Florida, although she accepts cases throughout the states of Florida and Georgia. Ms. Willis has won many prestigious industry awards, best personal injury & car accident lawyer awards, and recovered multi-millions for her clients. She was formerly a law professor, and graduated second in her law school class back in 1997. She formerly worked for some of the largest defense firms in the country, often on multi-million dollar cases. She used to represent large corporations & insurance companies, so she knows their playbook. We are very focused on the highest quality client service, and maximizing the value of every case we handle. We vigorously prosecute serious injury and death cases caused by auto accidents, semi-truck accidents, slip and fall accidents, products & premises liability cases, as well as medical malpractice.
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  1. Luke Ciciliano  March 17, 2014

    Thanks for sharing this Tina. It’s good that you mention the increase in insurance company profits. I personally thing the legal profession would be doing better in this debate, on a national level, if the counter argument was made more about insurance companies than physicians.


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