U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Florida Law That Caps Medical Malpractice Damages

According to Florida law -- and now the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals -- doctors' sometimes-deadly mistakes have a financial limit: $500,000.

The law was being challenged by Michelle McCall, who the Associated Press reports died after giving birth to her son in 2006 after a nurse decided not to tell a doctor that her blood pressure was running dangerously low and the doctor never checked her vital signs.

A Florida judge found McCall's family to be entitled to $2 million in noneconomic damages, but that was reduced to $1 million due to state law -- $500,000 for the malpractice of both the nurse and doctor.

But the McCall family decided the state shouldn't be able to decide how much their family member's life cost.

They filed the lawsuit on the grounds that the cap violated their right to access the courts and that the law was passed for a phony reason to begin with.

The law came about in 2003, under the premise that malpractice insurance premiums were rising like crazy -- which is still yet to be proven.

The appeals court's decision last week cited a Florida House committee report that doctors were either changing the scope of their medical practice or leaving the state altogether to escape the rising premiums.

The court says the malpractice cap law "passes muster," but the court still recommended the Florida Supreme Court consider the case on the grounds that the cap could violate the family's right to a jury trial.

Click here to read the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley