The Florida Supreme Court came to a decision this week that overturned the state law limiting pain and suffering, and other non-economic, monetary awards in medical malpractice cases.
Previously, a person that suffered an injury due to medical malpractice could only be awarded $500,000 for pain and suffering by the court regardless of what a jury decided. If a person was catastrophically injured, the limit capped out at an even million. However, these limits do not include monetary damages for lost wages, medical care, or any other losses – they strictly cover pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
The Supreme Court based its decision on a 2007 case where a woman was undergoing surgery for her carpal tunnel syndrome. After the surgery, her throat was injured when removing a breathing tube, and this injury led to a six week coma and other serious injuries. When her case finally came to trial, a jury awarded her $4 million, however, the court reduced the award by half due to the state law limiting medical malpractice damages.
In 2014, the woman’s appeal verdict was found in her favor, striking down the cap. The court ruled that the limit violated the equal protection clause due to the arbitrary basis for reducing damages in the law. The court basically found that the law did not make sense, and now the Supreme Court has weighed in. They agreed with the appellate court and upheld the decision.
It is unclear if the caps on medical malpractice claims in other states will be challenged now. The Florida Supreme Court only impacts Florida law.
Medical malpractice is classified as any negligence of a health care provider that causes an injury. When a doctor, nurse or healthcare facility fails to provide a patient with quality medical care, they can be held liable for their carelessness.