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Florida Court of Appeals Decision Finds Medical Malpractice Caps Unconstitutional in Lawsuit Brought by Mother of Child Who Suffered a Severe Birth Injury

While Congress and President Trump spar over the shape of health care in the future, tort reform has been promoted by some as a way to control costs.  The insurance industry, politicians, and the American Medical Association (AMA) contend the medical profession has been bombarded with massive verdicts from a highly litigious public.  These misleading claims ignore the special barriers to pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit like pre-suit requirements that include obtaining an expert evaluation to establish a reasonable basis for the lawsuit among other obstacles.  When an infant suffers a birth injury that causes cerebral palsy or other lifelong debilitating birth defects, the emotional and financial consequences on the child and parents can be overwhelming.

In this blog, our medical malpractice lawyers review a Florida Court of Appeals decision that eased the burden on parents pursuing medical malpractice claims for birth injuries.  The 2nd DCA in Port Charlotte HMA, LLC v. Suarez evaluated the constitutionality of Florida’s statutory limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.  The mother of a child sued a hospital and medical providers for injuries arising from her child’s obstetrical care during her pregnancy.  The expectant mother sought medical attention at the defendant hospital on multiple occasions for symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of early onset preeclampsia.  This medical condition, which can be fatal, affects many expectant moms. 

Despite her worsening symptoms related over several visits, the hospital and physicians failed to initiate a prompt course of antenatal corticosteroids to spur the development of her baby’s lungs and brain although she was at risk for premature delivery. Her medical provider also failed to transfer the expectant mother to a facility adequately equipped to handle a birth prior to 33 weeks of gestation.  Her child was born at 26 weeks with severe neurological deficits.  The impairments necessitated lifetime round-the-clock supportive care.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff of nearly $28 million, but the hospital filed a motion for reduction of the $5.5 million awarded for non-economic damages.  The hospital contended Florida Statute 766.118(3) capped non-economic damages in the case at $1.5 million.  The trial judge sided with the plaintiff and ruled the medical malpractice cap on damages was unconstitutional.

On appeal, the 2nd DCA cited a 2015 decision by the 4th DCA holding that the statutory cap violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.  In Estate of Michele Evette McCall, et al vs. United States, the Florida Supreme Court has subsequently agreed in a different case that caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits constitutes a violation of the equal protection clause of our state’s constitution.  The state’s highest court noted that the law resulted in the amount of damages available for pain and suffering, physical impairment, and mental anguish being less per plaintiff when there are multiple plaintiffs pursuing a claim.  Because the cap applies cumulatively to all plaintiffs, the law provides less compensation for each plaintiff when multiple victims are impacted in a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Serious Injury and Wrongful Death Victims and Families

Despite the insurance industry and AMA railing against medical malpractice lawsuits and verdicts, the imposition of liability on negligent medical providers promotes public safety and prevents victims from being short-changed when seeking noneconomic damages.  Our Miami medical malpractice attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to pursue the results you desire.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.  We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.








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