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Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Cap on Medical Malpractice Non-Economic Damages

August 24, 2017

A recent development in personal injury law could mean increased awards for plaintiffs.  Your trusted advisors at the offices of Bryan W. Crews are ready to evaluate your case and advocate on the behalf of plaintiffs in Orlando, Florida.

This June, in North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a Florida statute limiting the amount that a personal injury victim could recover in noneconomic damages was unconstitutional.  The statute, § 766.118, capped the amount that a plaintiff could recover for noneconomic damages at $500,000 and $750,000 for practitioners and non practitioners respectively.  Finding the law unconstitutional, the court held that the limits “arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries.”

Noneconomic damages are sometimes referred to as pain and suffering damages.  Economic damages are generally awarded to cover the cost of medical expenses and your inability to earn, or loss of, income.  Medical bills and wages are easy to quantify but are often not nearly as detrimental as the emotional anguish that plaintiffs suffer.

In the North Broward case, the plaintiff went to the hospital for carpal tunnel surgery.  When anesthesia was administered, “one of the tubes perforated Plaintiff’s esophagus.”  After surgery, the plaintiff complained of “excruciating pain in her chest and back.”  The anesthesiologist ordered a drug for the pain and sent the plaintiff home.  The next day the plaintiff was found unresponsive, rushed to the hospital, and underwent “lifesaving surgery to repair her esophagus.”  In addition to a series of surgeries, and her ongoing recovery, the plaintiff suffered “serious mental disorders as a result of the traumatic incident.”

The plaintiff was awarded “$2 million for past pain and suffering and $2 million for future pain and suffering,.”  However, “the noneconomic damages award of $4 million was reduced by close to $2 million,” and then further reduced “by about $1.3 million, as the Hospital’s share of liability was capped at $100,000 by virtue of the hospital’s status as a sovereign entity.”

Plaintiffs that suffer the same type of grievous and catastrophic injury as the plaintiff in the North Broward case will no longer have their pain and suffered damages limited by § 766.118.  Plaintiffs and their families suffer ongoing trauma that cannot be measured in terms of medical bills and wages.  The personal injury attorneys at the offices of Bryan W. Crews handle medical malpractice cases in Orlando, Florida, and actively seek the fullest possible recovery for all our clients.

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