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Supreme Court To Hear Medical Malpractice Dispute

Friday, December 6, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Diane Berg
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December 4, 2019

NSF Staff

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday quickly agreed to take up a case that raises questions about whether the state has a medical-malpractice insurance “crisis” that justifies limiting damages in certain lawsuits. The court’s decision came little more than three weeks after it received the case. The Lee County lawsuit involves a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law that prevented the adult children of Ramona Reyes from recovering non-economic damages --- commonly known as pain and suffering damages --- in a malpractice lawsuit stemming from Reyes’ lung-cancer death. The law bars adult children from recovering non-economic damages for wrongful death in medical-malpractice cases, though adult children are able to seek such damages for wrongful death in other types of lawsuits. That legal difference led attorneys for Reyes’ adult children, Sandra Santiago and Norma Caceres, to argue that the medical-malpractice law violates constitutional equal-protection rights.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in October upheld a circuit judge’s decision to dismiss the Reyes lawsuit, pointing to a 2000 Florida Supreme Court decision in a medical-malpractice case. That 2000 decision cited arguments by the Legislature that barring adult children from recovering non-economic damages was needed because of a medical-malpractice “crisis” that involved skyrocketing insurance costs for doctors and other health providers. But the appeals court urged the Supreme Court to revisit the issue --- a move known as certifying a “question of great public importance” --- because of 2014 and 2017 Supreme Court rulings that questioned the existence of a medical-malpractice crisis. Those rulings rejected other damage limits in malpractice cases. An attorney for Santiago and Caceres filed an initial document Nov. 12 asking the Supreme Court to resolve the issue. The Supreme Court on Wednesday did not set a date for oral arguments.