Med mal update: Damage caps struck down

    In the mid-1980’s, as part of an effort to crack down onlawsuits against doctors and hospitals, Florida enacted “tort reform”–intended to alleviate a “crisis” in high insurance premiums that was supposedly driving doctors away from practice.
     Among the “reforms” were caps on the amount of money damages that could be awarded to a victim of medical malpractice.  No matter how severe the damages, no claimant could recover more than $500-thousand for pain and suffering.  And no doctor could be held liable for more than $500-thousand for pain and suffering–no matter how severe the injuries.
     So when the Florida Supreme Court ruled 4-3 this summer that these damage caps violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution, the decision has been hailed as a victory for fairness and justice.
     “It imposes an unfair and illogical burden on injured parties,” held the Court, resulting in saving a modest sum for many by imposing devastating costs on a few, and arbitrarily punishing the most seriously injured.  Those who are slightly injured stand to recover the full measure of their damages, while the severely injured may never recover the full measure of their damages.
     What’s more, the Court held, the idea that such a “reform” results in a reduction in insurance premium has not been fully supported factually.

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