Florida Court Rules Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Award Caps Unconstitutional

by Martin Arguello

The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal recently ruled that the state’s laws on medical malpractice lawsuit award caps for non-economic damages were unconstitutional. The appeals court overturned a Broward County court’s decision that enforced the laws on medical malpractice lawsuit award caps. Attorneys for the hospital targeted in the suit claim that the case the appeals court used to base its decision did not set a sufficient precedent to overturn the law.

Details of the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

The appeals court case involved a 2007 incident in which a patient suffered a perforated esophagus during routine wrist surgery. Susan Kalitan was placed under general anesthesia during her carpal tunnel surgery procedure. Since the procedure required general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist was required to insert intubation tubes down the patient’s throat. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that Dr. Robert Alexander, the anesthesiologist during her procedure, made a crucial error when he inserted a breathing tube down her throat.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Cites Severe Injuries

After the surgery, according to the medical malpractice lawsuit documents, Ms. Kalitan suffered from severe chest pain. Doctors found no issues with her heart, prescribed pain medication, and sent her home. The next day, neighbors found her unresponsive and called an ambulance. In the emergency room, doctors diagnosed her with a perforated esophagus. She underwent emergency surgery and was placed in a medical coma for several weeks. She also required additional surgeries and months of physical therapy to accomplish the most basic tasks.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Award Caps Include Pain and Suffering

The Broward County judge claimed that the state’s laws on medical malpractice lawsuit award caps limited the amount Ms. Kalitan could pursue in non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering and punitive damages. The law also places medical malpractice lawsuit award caps on each medical professional, “regardless of the number of claimants to a cause of action.” In other words, regardless of how many acts of medical malpractice a doctor commits, the state places a limit on the awards patients can receive from that doctor.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Award Caps Appeal Cites Wrongful Death Case

The appeals court based its decision on an earlier case, in which medical malpractice lawsuit award caps for wrongful death were found to be unconstitutional. The jury in a 2014 case, in which a woman died in childbirth at an Air Force hospital in Florida, awarded the woman’s family $2 million in non-economic damages. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that medical malpractice lawsuit award caps in wrongful death cases “violated an individual’s right to equal protection.” The appeals court ruled that award limits in “personal injury cases are similarly unconstitutional.”

Source: Legal Solutions Blog

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NOTE: This post is a news story and does not imply an endorsement of Arguello Law Firm by any of the parties mentioned herein.

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