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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.

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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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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Richard Corcoran, the 100th Speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives, announced his nine appointments to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission yesterday, including our very own Rich Newsome. Corcoran’s appointments will join the 37-member commission assembled every 20 years, which will convene over the next 12 months. The group is tasked with identifying any necessary modifications […]

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IKEA Recalls 33,400 Beach Chairs After Six Fingertips Are Severed

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IKEA Recalls 33,400 Beach Chairs After Six Fingertips Are Severed A tranquil day at the beach turned into a bloody scramble to find a hospital for several owners of IKEA’s line of MYSINGSÖ Beach Chairs. The seats, made from fabric and wood, can allegedly collapse without warning, “posing fall and finger entrapment hazards to consumers.” […]

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HP Inc. Adds Another 101,000 Laptop Batteries to June’s 2016 Recall of 40,000

Lithium Ion Batteries, Laptop Batteries, product Safety news, Consumer Safety, Consumer Justice

Fire Starter; HP Adds 101k Combustible Panasonic Laptop Batteries to June’s Recall As long as manufacturers continue to rely on lithium-ion to power consumer devices, it appears that Newsome Melton will continue to write about lithium-ion batteries going up in flames. After recalling more than 40,000 last June, HP Inc. (formerly Hewlett-Packard), added around 101,000 […]

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