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Damages Cap Deemed Unconstitutional in Florida Medical Malpractice Case

hospitalIn Go v. Normil, a child was admitted to Bethesda Hospital with a high fever, vomiting, and a stiff neck. After two weeks of treatment, the child’s condition got worse, not better. As a result, he was transferred to Miami Children’s Hospital. When the child arrived there, it was discovered that he had suffered a stroke. The hospital ran additional tests and found the presences of both herpes and Epstein-Bar viruses.

The child’s mother filed a lawsuit against the hospital, the two physicians in charge of the child’s care at the hospital, and another health care organization.

An expert at trial concluded that if the child’s infections had been treated earlier, he would likely not have suffered a stroke that caused him permanent neurological and behavioral injuries. There was also testimony at trial stating that the child is not able to communicate or follow directions, takes part in self-injurious behavior, suffers from morbid obesity and a limitless appetite, and has little or no understanding for his own safety. As a result, he requires around the clock supervision. In the expert’s opinion, the child will never be able to live independently.

The jury awarded the child and his mother $16.5 million in economic damages as well as $6 million each for past and future non-economic damages. Pursuant to Florida’s statutory cap on medical malpractice non-economic damages, a trial court reduced the amount of non-economic damages from $6 million to $500,000 each.

The jury found that one of the physicians was 75 percent liable for the child’s harm. That physician appealed, arguing that the trial court made a mistake by excluding evidence of free or low-cost medical care that the child could obtain. The child’s mother cross-appealed, claiming that the cap on non-economic damages was unconstitutional.

The appeals court determined that the trial court properly excluded the evidence of possible future benefits, based on relevant case law. In fact, the Florida Supreme Court has specifically held that evidence of future benefits for Medicare or Medicaid is inadmissible because the right of reimbursement means that government programs are not free or unearned. In addition, the future availability of such programs is speculative.

The court also repeated that the caps are not constitutional in wrongful death cases as well as personal injury cases because they violate equal protection. Thus, the appeals court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to amend the judgment to reflect the initial amount of non-economic damages awarded by the jury.

If you or someone close to you has been hurt by the negligence of a medical professional, we can help. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our skilled Miami medical malpractice attorneys have the skill, determination, and knowledge to handle your case. We will take the time to answer your questions and address your concerns. You can rest assured that we will make every effort to get you the compensation you deserve in your case. We proudly serve clients from throughout South Florida. For more information, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

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