It is often said that one way to control healthcare costs is to cap the amount of money a plaintiff can recover in a malpractice case. This is typically known as tort reform. But a new study show that applying caps in medical malpractice cases does little if anything to actually lower or control healthcare costs.
In the early 2000s there were a number of states that imposed caps on how much a plaintiff could recover from a medical malpractice case. The reasoning that led to the caps was that doctors' malpractice insurance would be lower, doctors would want to remain in a state where there are caps, and those savings would be passed on to the consumer. While the reasoning had some appeal, the anticipated results have not come to pass. In fact, one study shows that there was a slight uptick in spending in those states that did limit the liability of doctors by passing tort reform.
Florida's Medical Malpractice Cap Law
Florida was among the jurisdictions that passed tort reform in the early 2000s. At that time the Florida legislature enacted a law that limited the non-economic damages of a medical practice case to $500,000, or $1 million if more than one person was involved. In practice, the new law meant that if someone was seriously hurt or died due to medical malpractice, then they or their loved ones would be able to recover for the actual monetary losses, but the new law put a cap on what someone's pain and suffering was worth. This new law represented a gigantic break from the course the common law had tread for hundreds of years. The law was also unfair to those suffering due to a medical negligence vs. any other type of negligence.
Florida Supreme Court Overturns Medical Malpractice Cap Law
Early in 2014, the Florida Supreme Court took on the medical malpractice caps in a chilling case. The case involved a 20-year-old mother who bled to death after a c-section where she gave birth to her son. The woman's survivors originally sued in federal court because her doctors were employees of the Air-Force. Her surviving family was awarded $2 million in non-economic damages, but the award was cut in half because of Florida's laws. The family appealed the court's decision to cut the award, but a federal appeals court ruled that cutting the award did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
After losing their argument in federal court, the family appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. The family argued that putting a cap on the value of their pain and suffering after a jury determined they should be awarded $2 million violates the state's constitution. The Florida Supreme Court agreed. In their opinion, the Court accused the legislation of creating a crisis and passing a law that violates Florida's equal protection clause. After the case was decided, the Florida Medical Association said the decision would cause higher premiums and impact whether doctors choose to practice in Florida. But the above mentioned study shows that those costs are not being passed onto the healthcare consumer.
If you are injured due to a medical mistake, you will need an attorney to work on your behalf. The Pittman Firm is dedicated to doing that for each and every one of their clients.