Around 35 states in the US have enforced some form of cap on claims for non economic damages in medical malpractice suits. The Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA) data released in 2013 reveals that these caps were rejected in 9 states. Florida became the 10th state this year to void financial limits on damages. For now, the ruling applies only to caps related to wrongful death suits.
Highlights of the Ruling:
The Court ruled that the 2003 Malpractice Law violates the Equal Protection Clause promised by the Constitution. The law also discriminated against cases where there were multiple claimants. Those involving multiple claims did not receive full compensation when compared to cases where there was only one claimant. This ruling on medical malpractice claim is however limited to non economic damages in the case of wrongful deaths.
The Impact of the Ruling:
Personal injury attorneys were earlier reluctant to take on difficult cases where compensation amounts were not worth the expenses incurred on them. Thanks to the ruling, they would be forthcoming to accepting such cases. Naturally, the number of malpractice cases would be on the rise. Defendants fearing a high award would naturally opt for out of court settlement. This is indeed helpful for plaintiffs whose cases deserve merit.
Would this affect medical practitioners who “will move to states with a more favorable litigation” , as feared by Alan Harmon, President of The Florida Medical Association? Are physicians justified in fearing that uncontrolled payouts could lead to a spike in insurance premiums?
But as data from PIAA suggests the number of states rejecting caps on claims of non economic damages in medical malpractice case is on the rise. Even if physicians decide to leave Florida, how long can they continue doing so?