Does Florida cap medical malpractice damages?

Question

Does Florida cap medical malpractice damages?

Answer

In statute, yes. In practice (for now), no. Like many other states, Florida has a number of laws on the books that limit or “cap” certain damages that are available to a medical malpractice plaintiff who has been successful in a lawsuit against a doctor or other health care professional.

As is the case in most states, Florida’s medical malpractice damage caps apply only to a plaintiff’s non-economic damages. That means compensation for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, loss of companionship, scarring, disfigurement, and other subjective losses stemming from the defendant’s malpractice. These caps do not apply to an injured patient’s economic damages. In other words, there is no limit on the amount of compensation a medical malpractice plaintiff can recover for past and future medical care necessitated by the malpractice, lost income, lost future earning capacity, and any other measurable economic losses attributable to the defendant’s malpractice.

Florida also utilizes different caps for “medical practitioners” (cases involving errors by doctors and other care providers) versus “non-practitioner” defendants. There is a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits against practitioners (the cap jumps to $1 million if the malpractice caused death or a vegetative state). The non-economic damages cap is $750,000 in lawsuits against non-practitioner defendants. A number of exceptions are noted in the statute.

But the caps set by this statute (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 766.118) were ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in a June 2017 decision. In North Broward Hosp. Dist. v. Kalitan, the state's highest appellate court decided that these caps "arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries," and struck down any statutory limits on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

by: , J.D.

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