Florida highest court will consider whether a $1 million cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases violates the state’s constitution.
The Florida legislature enacted the cap as part of a 2003 law overhauling the state’s medical malpractice stature. Led by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, lawmakers placed a $1 million cap on non-economic damages for pain and suffering.
The case involves a 2006 incident where Michelle McCall died after giving birth at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. McCall was treated by Air Force physicians after being diagnosed with high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a serious condition that affects pregnant women.
McCall’s family sued the federal government and a court ruled they should receive $3 million in economic damages and $2 million in non-economic damages for pain and suffering. The judge, however, reduced the non-economic damages to $1 million per state law.
The case eventually made its way to the 11th U.S. District Court of Appeals, which found that in enacting the cap, the legislature had addressed a legitimate concern.
“The Florida legislature could reasonably have concluded that such a cap would reduce damage awards and in turn make medical malpractice more affordable and health care more affordable,” opined the court.
The District Court ruled that the cap was constitutional under federal law, but also said that the Florida Supreme Court should address the issue.
In preparation for the case, the court has been inundated with amicus briefs both in support and opposition to the cap. The American Bar Association is arguing that the cap discourages attorneys from taking the cases, thus violating a victim’s right to due process.
Medical groups have lined-up in support of the cap.