Florida State Supreme Court Strikes Down Medical Malpractice Cap

The Florida Supreme Court has struck down a state law that capped noneconomic damages in medical malpractice injury lawsuits that stood at $1 million. The high court found that the law violates the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.

In this 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ 2015 decision that found that the cap, established by Florida statute, does not pass the rational basis test because the law arbitrarily reduces medical malpractice claimants’ rights to full compensation when there are multiple claimants and because it “does not bear a rational relationship” to its stated purpose of addressing an alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in the state.

The decision relied heavily on the Florida Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Estate of McAll v. United States that struck down the cap on noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases for many of the same reasons.

These state Supreme Court cases can be traced to many other states where medical malpractice noneconomic caps have been found unconstitutional. This has happened three times in Illinois when the Illinois General Assembly has attempted to pass legislation that would cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Each time the law was stricken by the Illinois Supreme Court as being unconstitutional.

In the case that arose in Florida, plaintiff Susan Kalitan’s carpal tunnel syndrome was to be treated by surgery as an outpatient in 2007. The surgery required general anesthesia. During intubation, Kalitan’s esophagus was perforated.

When she woke up, she complained of excruciating pain in her chest and back and was given some pain relief before being discharged and sent home. A neighbor of Kalitan found her unresponsive the next day and took her to the emergency room where she had to be rushed into surgery to repair her esophagus.

Kalitan was in a drug-induced coma for several weeks and had to undergo intensive therapy to be able to eat again and regain mobility. Kalitan filed a lawsuit against the hospital, doctors and nurses involved, including some who were affiliated.

After a jury trial, a verdict was entered in the amount of $4,718,011 in total damages, including noneconomic damages of $2 million for past pain and suffering and $2 million for future pain and suffering. The trial judge reduced the noneconomic damages by close to $2 million because of the statutory cap and cut the damages by another $1.3 million, as the hospital’s share of liability was capped $100,000 because of its status as a sovereign entity.

In October 2016, as the Florida Supreme Court considered the Kalitan case, the Second District Court of Appeals weighed in on the issue in a separate case by joining the Fourth District in finding the noneconomic damages cap to be unconstitutional.

Kalitan’s attorneys representing her in this difficult case were Jonathan Gdanski and Philip M. Burlington, who must be congratulated for fighting for their clients’ right to receive just compensation.

North Broward Hospital District, et al. v. Kalitan, No. SC15-1858, Supreme Court of the State of Florida.

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death cases, birth injury cases, cerebral palsy injury cases, traumatic brain injury cases and hospital negligence lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or died as a result of the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Alsip, Blue Island, Country Club Hills, Arlington Heights, Brookfield, Willow Springs, LaGrange Park, Markham, Melrose Park, Northlake, Forest Park, Crestwood, Calumet Park, Calumet City, Hoffman Estates, Hillside, Hazel Crest, Harvey, Hanover Park, Chicago (Ravenswood Manor, Printer’s Row, Pilsen, Chinatown, Back of the Yards, Stockyards, Archer Heights, Englewood, Marquette Park, Roseland, Beverly, Riverdale, Lake Calumet, Woodlawn, South Shore, Calumet Heights, Pill Hill, East Side, West Town), Schiller Park and Franklin Park, Ill.

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