Second DCA Finds Medical Malpractice Caps UnconstitutionalMedical Malpractice
In the case of Peace River Regional Medical Center v. Iala Suarez, 2D15-3434 (Fla. 2d DCA)(October 26, 2016), medical malpractice damage caps in Florida were struck down as unconstitutional. The Second DCA joins the Fourth DCA in holding the same (See North Broward Hospital v. Kalitan, 174 So. 3d 403 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015).
Ms. Suarez’s child was born at 26 weeks gestational age with severe neurological impairments that require ongoing 24 hour care for life . Prior to the premature birth, Ms. Suarez presented to Peace River Medical Center three times with progressively worsening pre-eclampsia. While pre-eclampsia commonly occurs during pregnancy, it can progress to a life threatening condition for both the mother and baby.
Notwithstanding the three visits to the hospital, Ms. Suarez’s doctors failed to timely administer antenatal corticosteroids in order to enhance the development of the fetus’s brain and lungs (important for premature birth due to pre-eclampsia). They also failed to transfer Ms. Suarez to a Level III facility that was properly equipped to handle a premature birth of less than 33 weeks.
A pre-trial settlement was reached with a doctor who saw Ms. Suarez on her third visit to the hospital. The case proceeded to trial against the hospital and the doctor who saw Ms. Suarez on her first two visits. The jury placed 30% liability on the hospital and 70% on the doctor who saw her on the first two visits.
The total verdict was for $13,550,000, with $4,000,000 in “noneconomic damages.”
“Noneconomic damages” are damages, such as pain and suffering, that cannot be After trial, the hospital sought to reduce the judgment to a statutory cap of $1.5 million under section 766.118(3), Fla. Stat.
Damages Caps Are Unfair and Unconstitutional
In reaching their opinion, the judges considered recent cases (Estate of McCall and Kalitan) binding on them. Those cases described the statutory caps as:
- Imposing an unfair and illogical burden on injured parties
- Arbitrarily diminished compensation for legally cognizable claims
- Does not bear a rational relationship to address the stated purpose behind the law—a malpractice insurance crisis
- The more devastating the losses are, the less likely they are to be fully compensated for those losses
If Something Seems Wrong with the Medical Care That You Received, Call Us for Help
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