In a victory for the rights of injured people, a Florida appeals court ruled that limits on certain damages for pain and suffering in personal injury cases are unconstitutional.
In 2003, the Florida legislature set limits of $500,000 in “non-economic damages,” such as damages for pain and suffering, in personal injury cases. In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court found that such limits are unconstitutional in wrongful death lawsuits over medical malpractice. Now, the 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled against certain limits in personal injury cases as well.
The medical malpractice lawsuit in question was first filed by Susan Kalitan, a dental assistant who suffered a perforated esophagus after being put under anesthesia for a carpal tunnel surgery. When she awoke after the surgery, she reported pain in her back and chest, but she was sent home. The next day, she was rushed to the hospital with an infection that resulted from a perforated esophagus. Kalitan then had to undergo neck and chest surgery and was in a medically induced coma for three weeks.
Kalitan was awarded about $4.7 million by a jury, with $4 million of that constituting non-economic damages. The judge applied the limits set by the 2003 law and reduced the non-economic damages award by $2 million.
The appeals court reinstated the jury’s award, finding that when caps discriminate between classes of medical malpractice victims, they violate equal protection rights guaranteed under the Florida Constitution.