Florida Court of Appeals Overturns Medical Malpractice Caps in Brain Injury Case

In a case that experts argued could have been avoided, a Florida court of appeals upheld a verdict awarded to a small child who suffered catastrophic brain injury. Soon after the case was decided, the Florida Supreme Court took up a case that reviews whether Florida’s non-economic damages cap violates our state’s constitution.

If those caps are upheld, then this family’s verdict will be diminished greatly in the future. Currently there is much conflict over whether the damages cap found in Florida Statutes 766.118(2). That statute limits the amount of non-economic damages a person can recover in a case to $500,000. That means that even if a jury awards a victim of medical practice a verdict of, say $2 million, under the law a judge would be obligated to reduce the award to $500,000.

A case like that went to the Fourth District Court of Appeals in 2014, and that court ruled that limiting damages in that way violated due process provisions of the Florida Constitution. The reasoning of that ruling was that there is no damages limitation in normal negligence cases, so medical malpractice cases should not be treated any differently. Now the Highest Court in Florida will decide whether that is true or not.

Background and Facts

The case that brought about this ruling is truly a tragic one. In 2006, a mother took her young child to the hospital for treatment. After two weeks of treatment the child was transferred to a children’s hospital, but suffered a stroke. As it turned out, the young boy was suffering from herpes and from a virus that was not detected, but if they had been treated earlier the stroke would have been avoided, according to experts.

As a result of the stroke, the child will suffer for the rest of his life. He is no longer functional in ways that will allow him to care for himself in the future. He is trapped in a life of round-the-clock medical care. In the wake of this discovery and ongoing struggle, the family sued the hospital that should have detected the illnesses and treated them prior to the boy suffering a stroke. In court, the jury awarded the boy and family a verdict worth many millions of dollars.

Court’s Rulings

As should be expected in cases like these, the hospital and doctors involved appealed the result. Butthe court of appeals did not agree with their arguments. The first argument the hospital and doctors made was that the award should be reduced because most of the care the child will receive in the future will be provided free of charge by federal medical programs. Of course that argument was rejected as the Florida SUpreme Court recently held that evidence of free health care provided by the federal government cannot be used to reduce a verdict.

Now the case depends on how the Florida Supreme Court rules on a similar case. Victim advocates across the state are watching the court closely to see what happens.

Panama City Brain Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury, contact us. At The Pittman Firm we sue those responsible for inflicting lifelong damages on unsuspecting victims. We do everything in our power to ensure that those who are injured are fairly and justly compensated.


See related blog posts: Defective Medical Devices and Strict Liability; Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Interstate Injury Claims.
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