Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals handed down a decision earlier this month that will effectively remove the caps on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, in Florida medical malpractice and personal injury lawsuits. The Court decided that arbitrarily limiting the amount that an injured plaintiff can recover for non-economic damages violated the equal protection clause of the state constitution. As a result of the ruling, plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits can seek and be awarded any amount of non-economic damages that the judge or jury sees fit.
The Case of Susan Kalitan
Susan Kalitan filed a malpractice lawsuit in 2008 against the North Broward Hospital District and several physicians who treated her during an outpatient carpal-tunnel surgery that she had performed in 2008. Kalitan was placed under general anesthesia for the surgery, and after she returned home, she began suffering from an infection in her esophagus and was required to return to the hospital to undergo chest and neck surgery. She was placed in a drug-induced coma for three weeks while recovering.
After the trial, the jury awarded Ms. Kalitan $4.7 million in damages, $4 million of which were non-economic damages for pain and suffering. The award was reduced by $2 million using the limits put into place by a 2003 law, and Kalitan appealed.
The Appellate Decision
On appeal, Kalitan argued that in light of a recent Florida Supreme Court decision ruling limits on economic damages were unconstitutional, the same standard should apply to non-economic damages. The 4th District Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiff, ruling that limiting the non-economic damages violates the equal protection rights of plaintiffs who suffer from a larger amount of damages than the limit allows.
This ruling can be appealed further to the Florida Supreme Court, and they may rule differently than the 4th District if they see a difference between economic and non-economic damages that would justify maintaining the limits on non-economic damages. But if the decision is upheld, plaintiffs will not be limited by a statute to the amount of compensation they can be awarded in a malpractice action.
Are You a Malpractice or Personal Injury Victim?
If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, the recent case decision by the 4th District may increase your chances of being fully compensated for the harm caused by another’s medical negligence. The experienced Florida medical malpractice attorneys at the Dean Law Firm will take advantage of these recent changes in Florida tort law to help our clients seek and receive the maximum amount of damages possible. If you are a victim, contact us today. At the Dean Law Firm, we represent clients in many Florida injury and negligence cases, including medical malpractice. Contact us online or call (352) 387-8700 to set up a consultation with an Ocala personal injury lawyer today.
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Florida Hit-and-Run Driver Sentenced to 20 Years in Jail, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 14, 2015.