The Sacramento Bee reported that Florida’s Supreme Court declared that arbitrary limits on medical and nursing negligence cases were unconstitutional. This is a big win for the people of Florida and the 7th Amendment to the Constitution. Florida law capped doctors’ liability for non-economic damages at $500,000 in most malpractice cases and $1 million in cases involving deaths. In a 5-2 decision, the court said the caps in such cases violate the equal protection guarantee in the state’s constitution. Florida becomes at least the seventh state to declare medical malpractice award limits unconstitutional.
“The cap on non-economic damages serves no purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members,” the court wrote. The case involved a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the parents of Michelle McCall, who died after giving birth in 2006 while being treated by U.S. Air Force doctors at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. A jury awarded her parents and son $2 million, but a federal court lowered the award to $1 million, citing the state law.
Non-economic damages are for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and other things. Economic awards, which have no cap, refer to lost wages or medical costs. Of course, children and elderly victims of malpractice have little lost wages.