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Does Florida's medical malpractice cap violate state Constitution?

The battle is heated over the constitutionality of a cap on medical malpractice damages in Florida. The $1 million cap on pain-and-suffering damages was part of a 2003 overhaul but now various groups are challenging the law.

Among them is the American Bar Association (ABA), which states in its brief that it opposes pain-and-suffering damage caps because they could make it more difficult for victims of medical malpractice to find the legal support they need. If this proves to be true, the ABA argued that it could violate a victim's right to due process.

The issue came to light after attorneys won $3 million, including $2 million in pain and suffering damages, for the family of a 20-year-old woman who died after giving birth at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center in 2006. The award was then reduced to $1 million in accordance with the 2003 law.

Although this year the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the $1 million cap is in accordance with the federal Constitution, the Court said Florida courts should also decide if the cap holds up under the state's constitution. That prompted groups such as the Florida Justice Association and AARP to file briefs in hopes of tossing out the law on several constitutional grounds.

Supporters of the law say the cap helps keep medical malpractice insurance costs low for health providers. In response, attorneys for the woman's family say even if the Court accepts this reasoning, it is unjust to place "the cost of this public benefit on the relatively few most seriously harmed victims of medical malpractice."

Although the Supreme Court felt it fair to place a cap on medical malpractice damages, experienced Florida attorneys understand how costly these situations can be. While no amount of money could ever replaced a loved one, hospital expenses and funeral costs can be a great burden for the survivors of a medical malpractice victim. If these costs are covered, family and friends can focus on comforting each other in their time of grief.

Source: WCTV.tv, "Med Mal Fight Goes On, Cap Question to State Supremes," Jim Saunders, Aug. 30, 2011.

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