- Florida Supreme Court strikes down caps on non-economic damages in personal injury medical negligence actions
- October 6, 2017
In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court held that caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice actions violate the equal protection clause and are unconstitutional. Estate of McCall v. United States, 134 So. 3d 894 (Fla. 2014). However, that decision was limited to wrongful death medical negligence cases. The following year, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that caps on non-economic damage awards in personal injury medical malpractice claims are similarly unconstitutional. N. Broward Hosp. Dist. v. Kalitan, 174 So. 3d 403 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015). In Kalitan, the plaintiff sought damages as a result of a catastrophic injury sustained during an outpatient wrist surgery. At trial, the jury awarded her $2 million in non-economic damages, which were limited by the trial court in accordance with the caps provided in § 766.118, Fla. Stat. On appeal, the Fourth District reversed and directed the trial court to reinstate the total damages award, finding no rational basis to apply the caps in personal injury claims and, therefore, declaring them unconstitutional.
The District Court’s decision was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which ultimately affirmed the ruling and held that the caps on personal injury non-economic damages in medical negligence actions provided in § 766.118, Fla. Stat. violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution and are unconstitutional.
The result of this holding is the complete elimination of damages caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice actions litigated in Florida courts. Thus, the only caps on damages that now remain in place with respect to medical malpractice actions are those litigated in the arbitration forum pursuant to § 766.207, Fla. Stat.