Fl. Supreme Court Declares Med Mal Wrongful Death Damage Caps Unconstitutional

March 14, 2014 / 12:11 pm

Should there be a limit on the amount of damages a bereaved family can be awarded when their loved one has died due to medical malpractice? The Florida Supreme Court said no.

On March 13, The Florida Supreme Court ruled in the case of The Estate of Michelle Evette McCall vs. the United States of America, overturning an existing cap of $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals and clinics on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases. The Court declared the cap, which was signed into law in 2003, to be unconstitutional, saying it violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.

The case in question arose from a lawsuit filed by the parents of Michelle McCall against the U.S government, after McCall died in 2006 at the age of 20 as a result of complications from childbirth while delivering her son at the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. Since McCall had been treated by U.S. Air Force physicians, her family sued the federal government and her parents, along with the father of her son, were awarded $2 million in non-economic damages. That award was then reduced to $1 million because of the cap.

To understand why the damages awarded to McCall’s family were capped, we must look back at the 2003 law that has now been overturned. The law in question was passed under former Gov. Jeb Bush, on the premises that Florida needed to rein in medical malpractice costs by limiting damages in such cases. Proponents of the law argued that by signing this cap into law, Florida would be creating a favorable environment for physicians, one that would encourage doctors to continue to choose to practice medicine in the State.

The Court’s recent analysis of the law was based on the arbitrary way that capped non-economic damages are awarded, reducing the actual damages sustained, without regard to the actual damages suffered by the survivors or the comparative fault of the tortfeasors. The Court did not address the other constitutional issues finding that a wrongful death case is not a common law claim and is limited to a statutory remedy so that the other constitutional challenges did not apply. The Court also held that the legislature’s data supporting the alleged rational basis for the imposition of caps and doctors leaving the State — was unsupported by the facts and available data. The Court refused to rule on whether the non-economic damages caps violated the constitution in medical negligence cases involving personal injury because the facts of the case before it did not involve personal injuries and therefore would constitute an impermissible advisory opinion.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision represents a good step in the right direction to restore fairness, accountability and responsibility in medical negligence cases. Although the decision is limited to medical malpractice cases that result in wrongful death, there will no doubt be a personal injury medical malpractice case decided in the future. Given the analysis applied in McCall, it is likely that the Court will find that caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice personal injury claims violate the Florida Constitution as well.

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MIAMI (June 13, 2024) – Colson Hicks Eidson has been recognized as one of the top three trial law firms in Florida in the “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs” category by the respected Chambers and Partners USA Legal Guide for the fourth year in a row. In addition, five of the Miami-based firm’s attorneys were also ranked individually.

“These rankings highlight the commitment and hard work of our attorneys, showcasing our firm’s capability to manage diverse cases for our clients,” said Dean Colson. “As the South Florida business landscape evolves, we remain committed to serving new clients while upholding the same standard of excellence that has defined our firm for 55 years.”

Stephanie Casey, Julie Braman Kane, Curtis Miner, Roberto Martínez, and Mike Eidson were all ranked individually for their work in the “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs” category. Miner received the top ranking (Band 1) and Eidson was named “Senior Statesperson” in “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs.” Martínez was named “Senior Statesperson” in two categories: “Litigation: Mainly Plaintiffs” and “White Collar Crime and Government Investigations.”

The rankings are a result of the firm’s exceptional track record of securing multimillion-dollar judgments and settlements for its clients in areas that include commercial litigation, medical malpractice, products liability, class actions, multidistrict litigation, and aviation and automobile accidents.

To schedule a consultation, do not hesitate to contact an attorney at our law office. We have experience in a wide variety of cases for clients located throughout the nation and around the globe.

About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a renowned law firm based in Miami, Florida, that is recognized as one of the top trial firms in the United States. Built on a foundation of over 50 years of dedication forging strong client relationships, Colson Hicks Eidson handles local, national, and international litigation, with cases spanning from Miami, Florida, and throughout the United States, to matters in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and Europe. Learn more at: www.colson.com.

Colson Hicks Eidson lawyers Thomas Kroeger and Zachary Lipshultz secured a $3 million damages award for a family of four who suffered significant trauma when a defective lithium-ion battery-powered scooter exploded and burned down their townhome. The family lost all of their possessions and endured significant emotional distress after being exposed to the fire and smoke.

On June 21, 2021, the electric scooter sold by Miami-based Defendant Hypertoyz exploded in the family’s foyer, quickly engulfing their home in fire. Everyone managed to escape amid the smoke and fire, but the family’s townhome was gutted in the blaze, destroying their possessions and forcing them to relocate.

A Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently awarded all four family members compensatory damages totaling $3 million.

Colson Hicks Eidson, P.A. and co-counsel BartlettChen LLC filed a complaint on behalf of a three-generation family who experienced a harrowing near-death incident on a United Airlines flight. The event occurred due to a miscommunication between the Captain and First Officer, resulting in the plane suddenly losing altitude and plunging toward the Pacific Ocean, coming within seconds of crashing and subjecting the passengers to extreme G-forces and terror.

The incident took place on Dec. 18, 2022 when three generations of the family boarded United Airlines Flight 1722 from Maui, Hawaii to San Francisco, California after a long-planned family vacation.

Shortly after takeoff during heavy rain, the Captain asked the First Officer to reset the wing flaps, but the First Officer heard “15” instead of “five,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).  The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the incident was “the flight crew’s failure to manage the airplane’s vertical flightpath, airspeed, and pitch attitude following a miscommunication about the captain’s desired flap setting during the initial climb.”

“To some extent, encounters with bad weather or turbulence are unavoidable when you fly, but no passenger should ever have to endure such a terrifying experience due to pilot error while traveling on a routine commercial flight.” Curtis Miner, Counsel for Plaintiffs said. “Our clients’ entire, three-generation family was subjected to this terrifying, near-miss incident.  We are committed to seeking justice and fair compensation on their behalf.'” Austin Bartlett, Counsel for Plaintiffs, commented: “This nearly catastrophic flight was horrific and traumatic. The Maltz family and all airlines passengers deserve better.”

The complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois where United Airlines is headquartered.

About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a boutique litigation firm serving clients in local, national, and international matters. Our multilingual team of highly experienced attorneys is dedicated to providing our clients with top-tier legal representation backed by a commitment to hard work, creative thinking, responsiveness, and professionalism. From our offices in Miami, we have handled a broad range of significant legal matters around the world for over 50 years.

About BartlettChen LLC

Based in Chicago, BartlettChen LLC represents individuals in aviation, wrongful death, and immigration matters across the nation and internationally. Austin Bartlett of BartlettChen has practiced aviation law for more than two decades and brings the unique perspective of a former aviation defense attorney to help victims and their families secure full compensation for their losses.

Colson Hicks Eidson is pleased to announce that nine attorneys have been named in the 2024 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers. Lawyers for this guide are selected through Lawdragon’s process of independent journalistic research and submissions.  Their selection process emphasizes lawyers who have demonstrated consistent excellence and have made notable impacts in their fields.

Click here to read the full guide.

The Firm’s recognized attorneys are listed below.

About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a boutique litigation law firm based in Miami, Florida, serving clients in local, national, and international matters across multiple languages. Practice areas include complex civil and commercial litigation, catastrophic personal injury, medical negligence, product liability, class action, mass tort, and white-collar criminal defense for the most serious and challenging of cases.  Since 1971, the firm and its lawyers have consistently worked to be respected by the state and federal judiciary – securing numerous multimillion-dollar verdicts, judgments, and settlements on behalf of clients. Learn more at www.colson.com.

MIAMI (November 2, 2023) – Colson Hicks Eidson announced today that it has been named in the 2024 list of The Best Law Firms in America. The Miami-based firm has once again received this honor at both the national and metropolitan level. This follows a recent announcement where seven of the firm’s attorneys were named as Best Lawyers in America” for 2024 across a range of fields.

“We strive every day to provide the best possible representation for our clients, and we are honored to continue to receive this recognition for our work,” said Dean C. Colson, Managing Partner of Colson Hicks Eidson.

Best Lawyers, a distinguished peer-review legal publication company, develops The Best Law Firms in America listings through individual lawyer and law firm surveys and firm recognition history. Colson Hicks Eidson is recognized in the following areas.

National Tier 2 (Represents national clients and smaller companies)

  1. Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs

Metropolitan Tier 1 (Scored within a certain percentage of highest-scoring firms in area)

Miami

  1. Bet-the-Company Litigation
  2. Commercial Litigation
  3. Criminal Defense: White-Collar
  4. Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions – Plaintiffs
  5. Medical Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs
  6. Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs
  7. Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs
  8. Insurance Law

Metropolitan Tier 2 (Scored within a certain percentage of the next highest-scoring firms in area)

Miami

  1. Professional Malpractice Law – Defendants
  2. Professional Malpractice Law – Plaintiffs

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About Colson Hicks Eidson

Colson Hicks Eidson is a boutique litigation law firm based in Miami, Florida, serving clients in local, national, and international matters across multiple languages. Practice areas include complex civil and commercial litigation, catastrophic personal injury, medical negligence, product liability, class action, mass tort, and white-collar criminal defense for the most serious and challenging of cases.  Since 1971, the firm and its lawyers have consistently worked to be respected by the state and federal judiciary – securing numerous multimillion-dollar verdicts, judgments, and settlements on behalf of clients. Learn more at www.colson.com.

Colson Hicks Eidson (CHE) is proud to announce its recent involvement in a significant legal matter with statewide implications. Sabrina Saieh, an attorney at CHE, has filed an amicus brief in the First District Court of Appeal in the case of State of Florida, Agency of Health Care Administration v. Alfredo Ivan Murciano, M.D. in support of Dr. Murciano’s brief.

The amicus brief was filed on behalf of CHE senior partner Roberto Martinez, who served on the most recent Florida Constitution Review Commission and was the primary sponsor of an amendment to the Florida Constitution, now found in Article V, Section 21, titled “Judicial Interpretation of Statutes and Rules.” This amendment explicitly prevents courts and Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from deferring to administrative agencies’ interpretations of state statutes or rules.

The brief urges the First District Court of Appeal to recognize that Article V, Section 21 was added to the Florida Constitution to prevent executive branch agencies, such as the Agency of Health Care Administration (ACHA), from imposing their legal interpretations on the courts and ALJs. The Florida Constitution prohibits ALJs and the courts from accepting mandates from ACHA to adopt their findings of fact or issue orders based on ACHA’s interpretations of statutes and rules that contradict those determined by the ALJs or courts during a de novo review.

This amicus brief underscores CHE’s dedication to defending the integrity of the Florida Constitution and ensuring that judicial interpretation of statutes and rules remains impartial and independent from administrative agencies.