The Florida Supreme, after more than a decade of challenges, has declared that caps on medical malpractice damages are unconstitutional. Their decision was based upon the case of Michelle McCall, who died after she bled to death following a caesarean section during the birth of her a son in February 2006 at a U.S. Air Force hospital in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Her family sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for her wrongful death due to malpractice.
A United States federal judge ruled that McCall did not received proper medical care and found that her parents and son should receive $2 million combined for their mental pain and suffering. But then the judge reduced the verdict to $1 million to comply with Florida's medical malpractice damages cap.
The family challenged the reduced verdict to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that the damage caps violated the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court upheld the verdict, ruling that it did not violate federal law, but suggested that Florida's Supreme Court should consider if the caps violate the Equal Protection clause found in Article 1 Section 2 of the Florida Constitution.
The legal shield of §766.118 was finally shattered this month when Florida's Supreme Court opined that the cap was "unfair and illogical" for placing a burden on injured parties when an act of medical malpractice results in multiple victims. The 5-2 ruling, drafted by Justice R. Fred Lewis, suggested that Florida's 2003 legislation created a legal crisis which "has the effect of saving a modest amount for many by imposing devastating costs on a few."
As a Florida personal injury attorney who has worked hard to help injured patients and their families, I believe that this decision comes 11 years too late.