Friend-of-the-Court Brief Filed in Florida Supreme Court in Support of Upholding Medical Liability Reform

The AMA and organizations representing Florida physicians, hospitals, small business owners and their insurers filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Thursday asking the Florida Supreme Court to preserve patients’ access to more affordable medical care by upholding the state’s limit on subjective awards for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Florida has a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages, but patients who have been harmed by true medical negligence can still receive unlimited economic damages for items such as lost wages, medical expenses, and reduced earning potential.

Florida’s cap on noneconomic damages was enacted eight years ago and is being challenged in a case involving a 20-year-old woman who died following the birth of her child. She had been diagnosed with hypertension and preeclampsia. Her family sued and was awarded $3 million, including $2 million in pain and suffering damages. But the cap on noneconomic damages led the court to reduce that pain and suffering award by half. The family appealed the claim, and the Florida Supreme Court will determine whether the cap violates the state constitution.

Similarly, North Carolina General’s Senate Bill 33 – Medical Liability Reforms, enacted in July, contains a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages, which takes effect October 1, 2011. The cap does not apply if a plaintiff suffers disfigurement, loss of use of part of the body, permanent injury or death; and the defendant’s conduct was in reckless disregard of the rights of others, grossly negligent, fraudulent, intentional or with malice. It has no effect on recovery for economic harm such as medical expenses and lost wages. The cap is indexed to inflation.

Related articles:

2011’s Legislative Successes: Medical Liability Reforms, NCMS Website

SB 33 – Medical Liability Reforms: The Power of Organized Medicine, NCMS Bulletin

Victory! SB 33 – Medical Liability Reforms Becomes Law in North Carolina, NCMS Bulletin


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