In 2003, the Florida legislature passed a law that limited the amount of noneconomic damages a deceased individual's family could receive through a wrongful death lawsuit against medical institutions and their professionals. The reasoning for the law was to lower the cost of medical malpractice insurance, enticing doctors to remain in Florida. But the Florida Supreme Court recently struck the law down, saying it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the state's constitution.
The Court said the law, which was found to have no rational basis to any legitimate state purpose, punished victims of hospital negligence and their families. By limiting their recoveries, reasoned the Court, surviving victims' families would be forced to carry an unfair burden when the victim was wrongly harmed by medical malpractice.
This ruling is good news for Miami residents who have lost a loved one to a hospital mistake. Noneconomic damages, which include pain and suffering, are often difficult to assess monetarily. Yet, negligent acts by medical professionals and the institutions at which they work should pay for the damage they cause, and limiting a victims' family's recovery merely allows wrongdoers to escape accountability. By having this law struck down, those seeking to recover compensation for their losses stand a chance at reaching a much fairer resolution, although no amount of compensation can bring a loved one back.
Though this case only addresses cases of wrongful death and a cap still remains on medical malpractice cases that are nonfatal, it is a step in the right direction toward protecting innocent patients. Those who have been harmed by a hospital mistake can take action to ensure they and others are protected, namely by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Those who are considering filing a claim may want to speak with a Miami professional who can provide strong legal guidance.
Source: CBS Miama, "Fla. Supreme Court Tosses Out Medical Malpractice Caps In Wrongful Death Suits," March 13, 2014