Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Limit on Medical Malpractice Damages: Is Louisiana Next?

In June, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a cap on non-economic damages associated with medical malpractice lawsuits violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

Given that Louisiana has always limited the total damages available to plaintiffs (to $500,000) in medical malpractice cases, what does this mean for the state, especially since the state Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of this cap as recently as 2012?

The Case

Last month, the Supreme Court of Florida held that the caps on personal injury noneconomic damages in medical negligence actions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution. The case arose after the plaintiff experienced complications stemming from surgery that left her severely injured. Similar to circumstances in Louisiana regarding a cap on damages, her noneconomic damages were capped at $500,000, even though the jury determined that she suffered catastrophic injury and awarded her $4,718,011 in total damages, of which noneconomic damages accounted for $4 million for past and future pain and suffering. Specifically, the victim suffered from a severe brain or closed-head injury evidenced by a severe episodic neurological disorder as a result of a mistake made during the surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome.

When the plaintiff challenged the cap placed on her noneconomic damages, the Fourth District Court observed that a majority of the Court had previously determined that the cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages violated the right to equal protection guaranteed by article I, section 2, of the Florida Constitution. In its decision, the court also disagreed that there was a “crisis” with medical malpractice insurance, justifying the cap.

What About Louisiana?

Although the law in Louisiana places an overall cap on damages in medical malpractice cases at $500,000, like Florida, Louisiana has a constitution that includes equal civil and political rights for all citizens and, also similar to Florida, enacted its cap on damages associated with medical malpractice in 1975 to address the supposed “crisis” of rising medical malpractice insurance costs.

In a 2012 case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s reduction of general damages and reinstated a jury’s original award, holding that the cap violated the equal protection and adequate remedy provisions of the Louisiana Constitution. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed this decision, maintaining the constitutionality of the $500,000 cap and endorsing the legislature’s original justification for the cap.

Louisiana Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, we can help. Medical malpractice not only covers huge errors, it covers omissions by doctors and other healthcare providers. Our New Orleans medical malpractice attorneys are dedicated to ensuring that you and your family receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today to find out how we can best represent our interests.