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BREAKING NEWS: Florida Supreme Court Rules Med Mal Caps Unconstitutional

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Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan, which effectively abolishes the arbitrary caps on medical malpractice damages the Legislature enacted back in 2003. Historically, Floridians injured by medical negligence were stuck with incredibly limited awards for non-economic damages, thanks to the efforts and lobbying prowess of various tort “reformers” in the early 2000s.  The Kalitan decision restores the rights of injured Floridians, enabling them to obtain the full measure of their damages as assessed by a jury of their peers.  This decision is a monumental victory for consumers and the civil justice system in the ongoing battle with the powerful corporate interests that continue to exert their wealth and influence to erode everyday citizens’ constitutional right to the access of courts.

The case arose from a tragic set of circumstances.  Susan Kalitan underwent outpatient carpal tunnel surgery, and during intubation, one of the tubes perforated her esophagus.  Her medical providers, apparently unaware that her esophagus was perforated, discharged her that same day.  The next day, her neighbor checked on her, and found her unresponsive.  She was then placed under a drug-induced coma, and upon waking, underwent several additional surgeries and “intensive therapy to begin eating again and regain mobility.”  Kalitan, SC15-1858, at 3.  The evidence reflected that “she continues to suffer from pain throughout the upper half of her body and from serious mental disorders as a result of the traumatic incident and the loss of independence because of her body’s physical limitations following this incident.”  Id.

The jury, after reviewing the evidence, determined that she had suffered from a catastrophic, “severe brain or closed-head injury,” and awarded her $4,718,011 in total damages—including $2,000,000 for past pain and suffering and $2,000,000 for future pain and suffering.  Id. at 4. Then, the trial judge wiped most of that award away, citing to the caps on non-economic damages contained in Section 766.118, Florida Statutes.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal subsequently overruled the trial court’s order reducing the Plaintiff’s award.  In doing so, the 4th DCA pointed to a critical change in the law—namely, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Estate of McCall v. United States.  That case, which was brought by a family who contended that their loved one died as the result of medical negligence, had resulted in the partial overturn of Section 766.118 back in 2014.  Specifically, the McCall plurality and concurring opinions ruled that “there was no evidence of a continuing medical malpractice crisis that would justify the arbitrary application of the statutory cap in wrongful death cases.”  Id. at 12.

Kalitan is the logical extension of McCall.  Just as there was no evidence of a crisis to support the arbitrary caps on wrongful death damages, there is likewise no evidence to support arbitrary caps on personal injury damages in medical malpractice cases.  As explained by the Court, the caps failed to meet the rational basis test because, “[i]n the context of persons catastrophically injured by medical negligence . . . it is unreasonable and arbitrary to limit their recovery in a speculative experiment to determine whether liability insurance rates will decrease.”  Id. at 18 (emphasis in original).

The Kalitan decision is correct on the law and represents great public policy.  Thanks to this well-reasoned opinion, Floridians who suffer needless injury because of medical negligence will be able to obtain the compensation they need to put their lives back together.  And, hopefully, this decision will pave the way for future challenges to other statutory tort “reforms” dreamed up by powerful corporate interests.

Asleep at the Wheel: How Trial Lawyers’ Heads are Buried in the Ground with Respect to Self-Driving Cars and Transportation Network Companies

By Richard Newsome, Esq. & William C. Ourand, Esq. Self-driving cars and transportation network companies will soon converge and bring about a paradigm shift of tectonic plate proportions for the auto industry, auto insurance industry, and lawyers who handle auto crash cases.  The industry is already preparing for the upcoming revolution, and is taking calculated political […]

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GM Pushing Radical Robot Car Bill Through Florida Legislature

Florida is already out on the safety ledge with respect to self-driving car laws, and a new bill being advanced by General Motors will push us even further over the brink. Last year, Florida became the first state in the nation to make it legal for a self-driving car to operate without a human being […]

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Florida Constitution Revision Commission Holds First Public Hearing Next Week in Orlando

The 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission will hold its first public hearing next week in Orlando at the UCF Fairwinds Alumni Center starting at 5:00 pm. This public hearing was announced on Monday during the Commission’s organizational session. Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission – or “CRC” – was first created in 1968. The CRC is comprised […]

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Newsome Melton Auto Recall Round Up

Defective Seatbelts; Hyundai Recalls 978,000 Sonatas             Seatbelts found in nearly one-million Hyundai vehicles can allegedly unfasten in a crash leading to a massive recall. The announcement affects the Hyundai Sonata sold under model years 2011 to 2014 and the Sonata hybrid from model years 2011 to 2015. Hyundai told authorities that during assembly the […]

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Snowshoes May Break During Use; L.L. Bean Recalls 3,000

Snowshoes are designed to redistribute a person’s weight over an area greater than their shoe size so they can traverse snow without sinking or getting stuck. But if the material cannot hold the weight of the operator the snowshoe can break and make it even harder to travel over snowy conditions. After learning of at […]

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Energizer Batteries Pose Burn Threat; 130,810 XBOX ONE Chargers Recalled

Overheating batteries continue to plague both manufacturers and the consumers who purchase wireless technologies. Defective batteries that power laptops, smartphones, hoverboards, and most recently XBOX ONE video game controllers, have led to millions of products deemed unsafe by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. After learning of 24 alleged incidents of their batteries “overheating and deforming […]

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2-Year-Old Ashanti Hughes Becomes First Fatality Connected to a Hoverboard Fire

Last week on March 11th, tragedy struck the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after a charging hoverboard allegedly overheated and sparked a fire that spread throughout a family’s home. The fire, which quickly engulfed the entire house, claimed the life of 2-year old Ashanti Hughes. To make matters worse, Lieutenant Dennis DeVoe, a firefighter on route […]

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Side Airbags May Deploy Unexpectedly; Nissan Recalls 54,000

             In many countries around the world slamming the car door is a sign of disrespect to the owner of the vehicle. This is not necessarily the case in the United States, but some Nissan owners may want to rethink their approach as the automaker announced the recall of over 54,000 cars because the side […]

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Mercedes-Benz Engines Can Catch Fire; Daimler AG Recalls One Million Vehicles

Vehicle Recalls, NHTSA, Mercedes Recalls, Benz Recalls

Mercedes-Benz, owned by Daimler AG, has announced the recall of around one million of their vehicles worldwide over a potential fire hazard. The German automaker told U.S. Authorities that they have received 30 reports of their engines catching fire in the U.S. leading to the recall of 354,434 vehicles. Around 650,000 additional vehicles were recalled […]

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