In January 2022, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that caps on non-economic damages are unconstitutional. Before the ruling, the cap (maximum recoverable amount of compensation) was set at $500,000.
You might be confused by this if you’ve already visited the 2021 Florida statutes, where the old medical malpractice cap is still listed. But don’t be confused; the Court simply hasn’t updated the statutes yet to reflect the January ruling.
There are no caps on economic or non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases in Florida. If you or a loved one were injured or otherwise suffered harm by a doctor, nurse, or other health professional you may be able to recover economic damages including:
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
There are also no caps on non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are subjective and more challenging to measure. These damages include but are not limited to:
- Pain and suffering
- Disability or disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Are you or a loved one the victim of malpractice or medical negligence? Discuss your case with a Florida medical malpractice lawyer from our firm. Our team has extensive experience achieving justice for our clients in medical malpractice cases. We may be able to help you pursue justice, too.
History of Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages in Florida
In 2003, Florida passed a law placing caps on the non-economic damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. Non-economic damages are unquantifiable damages like pain and suffering.
Non-economic damage caps varied depending on the severity of the case and the defendant in the case. If the medical malpractice case was against a practitioner, there was a $500,000 damages cap per claimant.
This cap increased to $1 million, regardless of the number of claimants, if the medical malpractice contributed to a permanent vegetative state or death.
It may also have increased to $1 million if the court determined the malpractice resulted in catastrophic injuries and severe non-economic harm.
If the defendant was a non-practitioner, the non-economic damages cap was $750,000. This cap increased to $1.5 million, regardless of the number of claimants, if the malpractice contributed to a permanent vegetative state or death.
It may also have increased to $1.5 million if the court determined the malpractice resulted in catastrophic injuries and severe non-economic harm.
Since 2003, courts have deemed the caps on non-economic damages unconstitutional in a few landmark cases. Our Florida medical malpractice attorneys discuss two of these cases below.
Estate of McCall v. United States
In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court determined that non-economic damage caps in wrongful death cases violated equal protection under the Florida Constitution. This landmark decision stemmed from the case Estate of McCall v. United States.
In Estate of McCall v. United States, a jury awarded a woman’s family $2 million in non-economic damages after she died giving birth. The lawsuit claimed that her death resulted from medical negligence. The jury awarded $500,000 to the woman’s son and $750,000 to each one of her parents.
However, the award was reduced to $1 million under Florida’s damage cap laws.
In the landmark ruling, the court stated that the cap in wrongful death cases fails because it “imposes unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties when an act of medical negligence gives rise to multiple claimants.”
Further, the court stated that in malpractice cases with multiple claimants, the “medical malpractice claimants do not receive the same rights to full compensation because of arbitrarily diminished compensation for legally cognizable claims.”
North Broward Hospital District v. Susan Kalitan
In North Broward Hospital District v. Susan Kalitan, the lawsuit alleged that Kalitan’s surgery for carpal tunnel resulted in catastrophic injury from medical negligence. The jury awarded Kalitan $4 million in non-economic damages.
Under Florida’s damage caps, the award was reduced to around $2 million. Then, the award was reduced again by about $1.3 million due to the hospital’s status as a sovereign entity.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned this decision and reinstated Kalitan’s damages. In 2017, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the Fourth District’s decision. The court deemed non-economic damage caps in personal injury cases resulting from medical malpractice unconstitutional.
The Florida Supreme Court stated that the caps “violate equal protection under the rational basis test because the arbitrary reduction of compensation without regard to the severity of the injury does not bear a rational relationship to the Legislature’s stated interest in addressing the medical malpractice crisis.”
There Are Currently No Damage Caps, but That Could Change in the Future
Florida passed non-economic damage caps in 2003 due to a malpractice insurance crisis. Florida believed the malpractice insurance crisis stemmed from increased malpractice claims and awards. Increased claims and awards caused medical liability insurance premiums to increase.
As a result, these high premiums led many practitioners to forego liability insurance or stop practicing in the state. This change in practitioner behavior resulted in reduced access to care for patients.
Since the Florida Supreme Court overturned non-economic damage caps, Florida has tried to revisit them. It’s possible that Florida legislators will pass new laws to reinstate non-economic damage caps in the future. For now, there are none.
Schedule a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Medical Malpractice Case
Have you or a loved one suffered damages as a result of medical malpractice? Our Florida medical malpractice lawyers may be able to help you. At Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath, we provide a free, no-obligation consultation.
During this consultation, we’ll discuss your case and answer your legal questions. We can also help you understand your best legal options and determine whether we can help you.
Call us at (561) 655-1990, chat with us, or send us a message. We represent individuals in medical malpractice cases throughout Florida with offices located in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Port St. Lucie.