The Florida Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that Florida medical malpractice caps are unconstitutional. The plaintiff, Susan Kalitan, successfully sued the North Broward Hospital District, after a tube perforated the plaintiff’s esophagus during surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. After being in a drug-induced coma for several weeks, she continued to have pain and trouble eating. At trial, she was awarded $4.7 million, mostly in noneconomic damages.
The Florida medical malpractice caps passed in 2003 limited pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases to $500,000, or $1 million in catastrophic cases. The trial judge reduced her damages to $1 million due to the caps because there was a finding of “catastrophic” damages by the jury.
Wrongful Death Caps Previously Tossed
The court of appeals found the cap to be unconstitutional, basing its ruling on a 2014 decision from the Florida Supreme Court striking down similar caps in wrongful death cases as a violation of the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution. In Estate of McCall v. United States, the negligence of Air Force doctors and nurses caused the death of Ms. McCall during childbirth. The original award was also reduced from $2 million to less than $1 million. The Florida Supreme Court held that the noneconomic damages cap violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution. Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis said in McCall v. USA that the Florida Legislature manufactured a medical malpractice insurance crisis to justify the damages cap, and that there was no longer a rational basis to uphold the cap.
The appeals court ordered reinstatement of the jury’s original damage award in Kalitan’s case.