Statutory Cap On Non-economic Damages In Medical Malpractice Cases Is Unconstitutional
On October 26, 2016, the Second District Court of Appeal issued a decision finding that the statutory cap on noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice case is unconstitutional.
In Port Charlotte HMA, LLC, d/b/a Peace River Regional Medical Center v. Iala Suarez, Case No. 2D15-3434, the Court affirmed the Fourth District’s conclusion that the statutory cap for non-economic damages provided for in Florida Statute § 766.118(3) is unconstitutional. Previously, the Florida Supreme Court determined that the statutory cap on wrongful death non-economic damages found in § 766.118 violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution. This reasoning has now been extended to personal injury medical malpractice cases.
In this case Ms. Suarez was suffering from worsening preeclampsia when treated by Peace River Regional Medical Center’s doctors, nurses, and other health care providers. Not only was Ms. Suarez not promptly administered necessary medications, but she was also not transferred to a Level III facility equipped to handle a premature birth. Tragically, the child was born with severe neurological impairments due to medical malpractice.
The trial court correctly denied Peace River’s request to apply the statutory cap on non-economic damages. The Second District Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that injured parties with non-economic damages in excess of the cap are not fully compensated for their loss. Thus, the cap violates the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.