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By: Scott Rees
Florida recently joined Georgia and at least five other states when its Supreme Court in a 5-2 decision ruled that a non-economic cap on damages in medical malpractice wrongful death cases is unconstitutional. The caps were part of a 2003 tort reform package put in place in part to lower the cost of malpractice insurance rates, avoid physician flight, and make sure high risk procedures continued. The Court determined that the caps violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, stating that “the cap on non-economic damages serves no purpose other than to arbitrarily punish the most grievously injured or their surviving family members.” The Court questioned whether there ever was a crisis involving insurance rates and physician flight, and that even if such a crisis had existed, it no longer did. The ruling does not address caps in malpractice cases where the patient does not die, but it is expected that aspect of the law will be addressed shortly. The decision can be found here. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, thirty-five states continue to have some type of cap on medical malpractice awards at this time.