A Florida appeals court recently ruled that caps imposed on pain and suffering damages (also known as “noneconomic” damages) are unconstitutional in medical malpractice cases, according to an Orlando Sentinel news report. Initially, the jury awarded plaintiff Susan Kalitan $4 million in noneconomic damages for injuries to her esophagus during a 2008 carpal tunnel surgery. A Circuit judge, however, applied the damage caps (which were put into effect in 2003), reducing the noneconomic damages by about $2 million. The appeals court ordered reinstatement of the original award.
The 4th District Court of Appeal’s ruling is in line with one brought down by the Florida Supreme Court, in which it rejected limits on noneconomic damages involving wrongful death medical malpractice cases.
Medical Malpractice Basics
Medical malpractice is defined as a health care provider’s failure to meet the appropriate standard of care that a reasonably competent and skilled medical professional would have provided under the same situation. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association medical malpractice accounts for the following tragedies:
- Unnecessary surgery (12,000 deaths)
- Erroneous hospital administration of medication (7,000 deaths)
- Other hospital-related mistakes (20,000 deaths)
- Infections (80,000 deaths)
- Adverse effects of medications administered properly (106,000 deaths)
While about 85,000 medical malpractice lawsuits are filed annually, it is estimated that the actual number of medical injuries is as much as one million.
In 2003, then-Florida governor Jeb Bush signed the medical-malpractice law into effect after a heated political battle about limiting noneconomic damages. Not surprisingly, physicians and hospitals alike argued caps were needed because of the rising cost of malpractice insurance. Opponents contended limiting damages would be unjust to injured victims. Under this law, damages were capped differently, depending on several factors including the type and number of defendants involved.
Medical malpractice is a growing issue in our nation; it is the third leading cause of death – behind heart disease and cancer. How often medical malpractice occurs, however, is difficult to assess because often it goes unreported or even unnoticed. According to a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association, almost a quarter of a million people die every year from medical malpractice.
We Are Here to Help
When it comes to your health and medical care, you are your best advocate. If you or someone you know believes he or she has been a victim of medical malpractice, contact a skilled Brandon medical malpractice attorney right away. The skilled attorneys at Reed & Reed can guide you through the legal process and fight for monetary damages to which you may be entitled. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact Reed & Reed for a free consultation.