Articles Posted in Insurance Company Issues

In 2003, then Governor Jeb Bush signed into law Fla. Stat.§ 766.118, which capped the amount of recovery a plaintiff could receive from defendants for medical malpractice. The medical community claimed that doctors were fleeing Florida because of the sky-high cost of medical malpractice insurance and these caps would help to keep doctors in Florida and attract doctors to Florida. This statute limited noneconomic damages, otherwise known as pain and suffering, to between $500,000 and $1.5 million, depending on whether the healthcare provider is deemed a “practitioner” or a “nonpractitioner” and if the plaintiff died, was left in a vegetative state, or can prove “catastrophic injury.”

In November of 2006, Susan Kalitan arrived at Broward General Hospital for an out-patient carpal tunnel surgery, which is performed under general anesthesia. While the doctor and two nurses were administering the anesthesia, Kalitan’s esophagus was punctured. When she awoke in the recovery room, she immediately began complaining of chest and back pain, but because her heart rate and rhythm appeared normal, her complaints were ignored and she was sent home where her health deteriorated. The next morning Kalitan was discovered by a friend and rushed to the hospital. Kalitan was diagnosed with a perforated esophagus. Due to the perforation, fluid and food had escaped her esophagus and found its way into her chest cavity for more than 24 hours, causing a life-threatening infection. Kalitan had to have chest and neck surgery performed to remove the foreign material from her chest and remove the infection. She was then placed into a drug induced coma for three weeks while she recovered and fed through a feeding tube. When Kalitan awoke from her coma she remained in the hospital for several more weeks; she underwent speech pathology to learn to speak and swallow again and physical therapy to learn how to walk again. Kalitan remained on a feeding tube for six months. These are just of few of the complication that Kalitan continued to suffer because of the negligence of the anesthesiologist and Broward General Hospital.

In 2008 Kalitan filed a medical malpractice suit against North Broward Hospital District (“North Broward”) and the doctors and nurses who administered the anesthesia and their employers. In 2011 the case went to trial and the jury found the anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist, student nurse anesthetist and the nurses at North Broward negligent and awarded her $4,718,000 in damages; $718,000 in economic damages and $4,000,000 in non-economic damages. Unfortunately, because of Fla. Stat.§ 766.118, Kalitan’s damages were reduced by the trial judge to $2,793,011. Both Kalitan and the Defendants appealed the decision and the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed based upon the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Estate of McCall v. United States, 134 So.3d 894 (Fla. 2014). In McCall the Court found that the caps in Fla. Stat.§ 766.118 were unconstitutional in multiple claimant personal injury cases.

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision earlier this month, affirming a U.S. District Court decision that denied the plaintiffs’ attempt to collect on an underinsured motorist claim. The plaintiffs attempted to aggregate the policy limits for underinsured motorist coverage in a case filed against their own insurance company after an accident in which they suffered more damages than the settlement they accepted from the other driver’s insurance company would compensate them for.

The Court ruled that the insurance company is not required to allow clients to stack the policy limits of multiple covered vehicles to increase the coverage limit for damages caused to a single vehicle in a single accident. The Court further ruled that if the insurance company does allow the policy limits to aggregate based on the number of covered vehicles, they may correspondingly aggregate the setoff payment amounts received from the at-fault party’s insurance company against each vehicle’s policy limit, meaning that the plaintiffs will not recover more than the policy limit for a single vehicle.

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