Medical Malpractice Suit Sparks Interest in Supreme Court

 

Florida Supreme Court

In a sign of the high stakes involved, dozens of groups from across Florida and the nation have filed briefs in a state Supreme Court case that challenges the constitutionality of damage caps in medical-malpractice lawsuits.

At least 13 briefs — many filed by multiple groups or hospitals — have streamed into the Supreme Court recently in a case that stems from the 2006 death of 20-year-old Michelle McCall after she gave birth at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.

McCall’s family filed a lawsuit against the federal government because she was treated by Air Force doctors, but pain-and-suffering damages were limited to $1 million because of a 2003 overhaul of Florida’s medical-malpractice laws.

Physicians groups, ranging from the Florida Medical Association to the Florida Gastroenterologic Society, have rallied behind the caps, with at least 12 signing onto briefs. Similarly, major parts of the hospital industry, including the Florida Hospital Association and Tenet Healthcare hospitals, have backed the caps.

Opposition to the caps has come from groups such as the American Bar Association, the Florida Justice Association trial-lawyers group, AARP and labor unions.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year ruled the cap did not violate the federal constitution but said the Florida Supreme Court should address the issue under the state constitution.

Attorneys for McCall’s estate filed an initial brief Aug. 1, while many outside groups filed their arguments in late September.

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