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Medical Malpractice Caps and Daytona Beach Attorneys

Mon, Dec 05, 2011 at 11:35AM

     In 2003, the Florida Legislature became alarmed at the loss of doctors in Florida, many of whom were allegedly leaving the state because of malpractice lawsuits.  To help stem the flow, the Legislature passed a law restricting the amount of noneconomic damages that could be awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits.  Noneconomic damages consider areas such as pain and suffering and loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life. 

     No matter the situation, under Florida law a person who suffers from the consequences of medical negligence may receive no more than $500,000 for noneconomic damages. A family that loses a loved one can recover no more than $1 million.

     So how well did the caps on damages help stop the loss of doctors from the state? Not too well, Daytona Beach attorneys note. A study by Florida State University in 2007, four years after the caps were enacted, showed there were 34,000 doctors practicing in the state in 2007, down from a peak of 50,000. A more recent report by the Palm Beach Daily News in August 2011 revealed that the state, as well as the nation, was still struggling to increase the number of physicians. The Daily News report noted several new medical schools and other initiatives in the state, but also quoted estimates from the Association of American Medical Colleges that showed the U.S. will be 91,500 short of the doctors it needs by 2020.

      All this leads to the case of the Estate of McCall v. the United States. The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Feb. 9, 2012, and Daytona Beach attorneys will be following it closely.

     The case concerns a case filed by the estate of Michelle McCall in 2006 following her death. Ms. McCall died from internal bleeding when U.S. Air Force hospital personnel failed to monitor her blood pressure. The family sued in 2007 and a federal judge decided in favor of the family, awarding them $3 million, of which $2 million was for noneconomic damages. Of that, $500,000 was allocated to her son and $1.5 million to her parents. But the case was in Florida so the noneconomic award was capped at $1 million. The family appealed and the case is now in the state Supreme Court.

      What happens with this case will go a long way to determining whether the caps on malpractice awards are constitutional. Daytona Beach attorneys believe the caps should be overturned because they improperly interfere with the judicial system’s ability to properly determine the outcome of a case.

     The Daytona Beach attorneys of Seitz & Tresher are available for consultation if you feel you or a loved one are the victim of medical malpractice. The Florida-based firm focuses on personal injury and wrongful death cases.

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