TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Supreme Court dropped a bomb on the Florida Legislature Thursday morning when it ruled that a 2003 law limiting damages in wrongful death medical-malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional.
The 5-2 ruling said that a cap on “non-economic” damages violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution, according to the News Service of Florida.
The Florida Legislature passed the law during a 2003 special session called by then Gov. Jeb Bush, who pushed for malpractice lawsuit changes in an attempt to lower malpractice insurance rates and keep doctors from limiting their practices or moving out of state.
The Florida Supreme Court rejected this reasoning.
“No rational basis currently exists (if it ever existed) between the cap imposed by section 766.118 and any legitimate state purpose,” the Court said in its decision. “At the present time, the cap on noneconomic damages serves no other purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members.”
The Court continued, “Moreover, it has never been demonstrated that there was a proper predicate for imposing the burden of supporting the Florida legislative scheme upon the shoulder of the person and families who have been most severely injured and died as a result of medical negligence.”
The Court also said the cap imposed “unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties when an act of medical negligence gives rise to multiple claimants.”
The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling didn’t address medical malpractice caps in place when the victim doesn’t die.