The health care debate is heating up in Florida as the state’s highest court weighs the constitutionality of a law that places caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The case, known as McCall v. U.S., concerns 20-year-old Michelle McCall, who bled to death while giving her birth to her son.
In the lawsuit, McCall’s family alleged that if it were not for the negligence of the medical staff on hand, the young woman would be alive today. A federal district court judge agreed and awarded her estate nearly $3 million, $2 million of which was for non-economic damages, including compensation for her son’s pain and suffering. However, due to a Florida law placing caps on non-economic damages, the award was reduced to only $1 million.
McCall’s family is now appealing to the Florida Supreme Court that this cap is a violation of the state’s constitution, including the section that grants citizens access to the courts.
“The Florida judiciary has already determined in the past that damages caps violate the state constitution because they don’t provide access as everyone has understood it,” says Robert Peck, the lawyer representing McCall’s estate in the case. “Access means full redress for the injury received. So a person who receives $1 million when full compensation should have been $2 million did not have that access.”
If the plaintiffs win, the state’s current cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases could be lifted. In addition, such a win may send a message to legislators, who are poised to vote on a new health care law that will have further implications on Floridians’ rights to sue physicians.
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