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Florida Supreme Court Tosses Medical Malpractice Caps

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Florida Supreme Court Tosses Medical Malpractice Caps
Lenore LaBree
HCS/430
March 17, 2014
Nancy Geedey

Florida Supreme Court Tosses Medical Malpractice Caps
Medical malpractice law suits are common within the United States. This paper will discuss this regulatory issue and the relationship it has to the nature, sources and functions of the law. The information in this paper will also educate the readers on the medical malpractice laws and the reasoning for caps being placed on malpractice.
Malpractice is a form of negligence that is defined as “professional negligence” (Fremgen, 2012 p. 39, para. 6). Both malpractice and negligence relate to wrongdoing. Negligence leads to liability in malpractice. Professional malpractice includes physicians, nurses, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists, and other health care professionals (Fremgen, 2012). This is why it is important for health care professionals to carry medical malpractice insurance. This type of insurance is costly for physicians, but is a must for physicians to have in the event he or she loses a litigation case. The physicians’ medical malpractice insurance also covers the employee within the facility that are not licensed. Because of the nature of today’s litigation on medical malpractice most other licensed medical professionals carry his or her own insurance for reassurance.
In the past, people could sue hospitals and/or physicians for medical malpractice and a jury would decide how much the patient would be awarded after hearing all the evidence and if the jury found the doctor or hospital guilty for negligence. Since then physicians and insurance companies have fought through legislation to put a cap on what the jury could award the people in Florida. Florida’s current law for non-economic damages ranges from $500,000 and $ 1,500,000. This law has yet to be decided on constitutionally because the provisions of the law hits the poor and elderly the hardest according to the Florida healthcare law blog (Navin & Kelley, 2014).
Insurance companies and physicians are hoping these caps can become a reality in the near future. Without the caps on medical malpractice the physicians can be charged extremely large sums of money if found guilty. This causes the physicians insurance rates to increase tremendously. Because of the high cost of medical malpractice insurance, many physicians are relocating to different states where the insurance is cheaper and caps are set for medical malpractice litigation suits. This hurts the insurance companies’ revenues because when the physician relocates the insurance company losses his or her business.
Farrington states that the Supreme Court ruled against caps on damages that result in death caused by medical malpractice because the caps were found to be unconstitutional (Farrington, 2014). These caps were part of a law established in 2003 to keep insurance rates low and to keep physicians in Florida. At the time the law about allowing caps passed, insurance rates were thought to be a crisis. The court ruled that non-economic caps “were only to punish the most grievously injured and the surviving family members” (Farrington, 2014).
In a particular case where a woman died giving birth in 2006, jury members found U.S. Air Force doctors to be liable of medical malpractice. The jury awarded the woman’s parents and her surviving child $2 million dollars. The federal court stepped in and lowered the award amount to $1 million because of the Florida state law. The Florida state law states that non-economic damage suits are capped at $500,000 for doctors’ liability and $1 million if a death occurred because of medical malpractice (Farrington, 2014).
The Florida Supreme Court is really not sure if there ever was a crisis caused from skyrocketing insurance rates, but knows currently there is not one. The Florida Medical Association is in fear that physicians may start relocating to other states again because of the ruling from the Supreme Court. The Florida Medical Association feels that the ruling will make insurance cost rise again. The president of the association blames the decision of the Supreme Court to be the very reason physicians will relocate to another state to find better litigation climate (Farrington, 2014). However, the Florida Justice Association is happy with the decision the court made because having caps set on damages are not fair to the victims of medical malpractice. These caps are only for patients that have died as a result of medical malpractice. The Florida Justice Association feels these regulatory issues will be back in court in the future. Currently thirty-five states have a cap in place for medical malpractice law suits.
In conclusion, the regulatory issue of medical malpractice will continue to go before the courts in the future. This issue will be a continuous battle because each state has different laws pertaining to this issue. In the ever-changing world of healthcare and technology, medical malpractice laws will have to be reevaluated in the future. This is a regulatory issue that unfortunately will never go away.

References:
Farrington, Brendon. (2014). Fla. Supreme court tosses medical malpractice caps. Miami Herald Business Wires. Retrieved March 14, 2014 from, www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/13/3992403/fla-supreme-court-tosses-medical.html
Fremgen, B.F. (2012). Medical law and ethics: An interactive look at the decision, dilemmas, and regulations in healthcare practice today (4th ed). Upper Saddle River, N. J. Prentice Hall
Navin, Bonnie & Kelley, Bob (2014). The Florida Healthcare Law Blog. Retrieved March 13, 2014 from, floridahealthcarelaw.com/the-complexity-of-florida-medical-
malpractice-law/caps-on-certain-damages/…...

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