The Battle Rages On for Malpractice Caps

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA


November 16, 2016

In This Article

More Tension Over Malpractice Caps

A Florida appeals court is the latest judicial body to weigh in on the vexing issue of the state's medical-malpractice cap, according to a report by The News Service of Florida, posted on News4Jax, among other news sites.[1]

In 2003, the Sunshine State legislature and then-Governor Jeb Bush approved a cap on noneconomic damages in medical-malpractice cases, arguing that the escalating liability insurance costs doctors were facing demanded such action. The law remained in place for more than a decade—until, that is, the state Supreme Court intervened. In 2014, after its review of a suit brought by the family of a woman who had died after giving birth in a Florida hospital, the high court ruled caps to be unconstitutional in wrongful-death cases.

Then, in June of this year, the high court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of the state's cap in personal-injury cases. Justices haven't yet issued their ruling, but, in the interim, the state's Second District Court of Appeal has handed down its own decision, which holds that damage caps are, in fact, unconstitutional in personal-injury cases. Earlier, another appeals court—the Fourth District Court of Appeal—reached a similar conclusion in the very same personal-injury case now before the Florida Supreme Court.

The Second District Court case involves a suit brought by Iala Suarez against the Peace River Regional Medical Center (now Bayfront Health Port Charlotte), in Port Charlotte, Florida. In her suit, Suarez claimed that, during her pregnancy, the negligent care she received at the center led to her daughter being born with severe neurologic injuries.

At trial, the jury awarded Suarez $5.25 million in noneconomic damages, with the hospital responsible for a portion of that. The defendants appealed the award, citing the state's existing cap on noneconomic damages. The Second District Court tossed out this appeal, however, arguing that, like the Fourth District Court, it believed that limits on noneconomic damages are unconstitutional in personal-injury cases.

Meanwhile, observers on both sides of the issue are hoping for a definitive ruling from the state's high court.


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