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Two Takes on Medical Malpractice Damage Limits, Part 1: Florida Supreme Court Overturns Limits

GavelThe future of medical malpractice limits is under consideration in two vastly different arenas at the same time. One could ultimately force the United States Supreme Court to make a decision on the matter while the other could result in a new federal statute. In either case, the ability of medical malpractice victims to collect compensation could be directly affected.

Legislative Limits

In 2003, the Florida legislature passed a measure that limited non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $500,000. The limit could be raised to $1 million if a victim’s injuries were deemed to be catastrophic. The issue was so important to then-Governor Jeb Bush that he called three special legislative sessions to get the bill passed into law.

The law is similar in substance to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) passed in California in 1975, though the Florida version allowed for significantly higher damage awards. California’s law limits non-economic damages—which include considerations such as pain and suffering—to $250,000.

Courtroom Victories for Victims

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling that directly challenged the 14-year old law. The case before the state’s high court involved a woman who underwent surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome and suffered a perforated esophagus when tubes were inserted during the anesthesia process. The woman filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital and other defendants and was awarded $4 million in non-economic damages by the jury. Because of the law, her award was reduced by more than half.

On appeal, the appellate court ruled that damage caps in such cases were unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court ultimately agreed by a 4-3 vote, finding that the law violates equal protection clauses in the state’s constitution. While neither court denied that medical malpractice and related insurance policies were an issue, the justices determined that arbitrarily reducing available compensation “without regard to the severity of the injury” is not a rational solution.

What Does This Mean for California?

At the moment, the decision in Florida has no bearing on medical malpractice victims in the Golden State. If, however, the case is pushed further and ultimately taken up by the United States Supreme Court, California patients could be affected. In the event that the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Florida court’s ruling, MICRA, as it currently exists, could be deemed unconstitutional as well.

A Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

While the battle over medical malpractice damage limits rages on, victims continue to suffer at the hands of negligent medical professionals. If you have been injured due to substandard care, contact an experienced San Jose medical malpractice lawyer for guidance with your case. Call (408) 289-1417 for a free consultation at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. today.

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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.