The Florida Supreme Court on March 13, 2014, overturned a 2003 law that imposed arbitrary limits on noneconomic damages in wrongful death claims. This victory for Florida patients and families is the result of the outstanding work of the Center for Constitutional Litigation (CCL), led by Bob Peck, and local counsel Henry T. Courtney, Sara Courtney-Baigorri and Stephen S. Poche.
Supporting CCL to Support the Plaintiff Bar
The American Association for Justice supports CCL's work by retaining the firm to, among other things, challenge the constitutionality of laws that limit access to the courts. When an important precedent is at issue concerning the plaintiff bar and AAJ's mission, CCL litigates these cases. CCL's work on this Florida case was funded in part by AAJ's retainer. I encourage you to hire CCL for appellate work or, if you have a state issue of this magnitude, you can make a request to AAJ to use our retainer to help offset the cost of your case.
At the heart of the Florida case are issues at the core of our democracy. Bob argued in the Florida Supreme Court that Florida’s statutory limits on compensatory damages for non-economic harm violate plaintiffs’ rights of equal protection, trial by jury, access to the courts, and separation of powers under the Florida Constitution. The Court struck down the law on equal protection grounds, concluding that:
“The statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages fails because it imposes unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties when an act of medical negligence gives rise to multiple claimants. In such circumstances, medical malpractice claimants do not receive the same rights to full compensation because of arbitrarily diminished compensation for legally cognizable claims.”
Court Says: No Medical Malpractice Crisis
The Court went even further, noting, “…the statutory cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages does not bear a rational relationship to the stated purpose that the cap is purported to address, the alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in Florida.”
While the legislature claimed that there were too many frivolous lawsuits and that the increase in medical liability insurance premiums was the cause of doctors leaving Florida, the Court disagreed and wrote, “…the finding by the Legislature and the Task Force that Florida was in the midst of a bona fide medical malpractice crisis, threatening the access of Floridians to health care, is dubious and questionable at the very best.”
Court Says: Insurance Companies Hurting Doctors
The court also noted that between 2003 and 2010 there were four medmal insurance companies with an increase in their net income of more than 4300 percent. With that kind of income, the court wrote, “the insurance industry should pass savings onto Florida physicians in the form of reduced malpractice insurance premiums.”
This is a tremendous victory and I hope you will join me in congratulating all who worked on this important case.
American Association for Justice