Florida Supreme Court to rule on medical malpractice limits

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Florida Supreme Court, urging the court to uphold limits on damages in medical malpractice cases.

In 2003, then-Gov. Jeb Bush, along with insurance companies, doctors and hospitals, urged the state legislature to enact limits on damages for pain and suffering, arguing that the state was in a “crisis” of high rates for medical malpractice insurance. Critics at the time pointed out that victims of medical malpractice, who suffer life-changing injuries as the result of mistakes by doctors and hospitals, deserve fair compensation for their injuries, and high insurance rates are better addressed by regulation of the insurance industry.

After the legislature enacted limits on damages, the Florida Supreme Court found the limits unconstitutional in wrongful death cases, and in the summer of 2015, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that such limits were also unconstitutional in personal injury cases involving medical malpractice. The Florida Supreme Court will now decide that issue.

Bondi’s office argued that the plaintiff in the case before the court, Susan Kalitan, who suffered a perforated esophagus as the result of a medical error, failed to rebut the evidence the legislature relied on in enacting damages caps, and failed to show that there was any other way to address the “crisis” of high insurance costs. However, Kalitan’s attorneys argued in their appellate brief that the legislature could lower malpractice premiums by regulating those premiums, without affecting anyone’s constitutional rights.