America’s Lawmakers Still Divided Over Medical Malpractice Awards

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

Since at least as far back as 1980, America’s courts have argued over the subject of placing caps on the amount of damages one can receive in a medical malpractice claim, but so far, the nation appears to remain divided. The Florida Supreme Court is the latest to weigh in when it struck down a cap on damages for wrongful death cases. The court made the ruling under the Equal Protection Clause of Florida’s constitution.

The interesting thing about this latest ruling is that it is a direct contradiction to the 11th Circuit U.S Court of Appeals’ previous finding, which held that a cap would not violate the U.S. constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Even more interesting, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is the entity that requested Florida’s Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of medical malpractice damages.

While Wisconsin was not named in the report, other states agree with Florida’s recent ruling including Michigan, Indiana and Virginia as well as most federal appeals courts. The division stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s rational basis test. On one side of the coin, some lawmakers believe judges and juries should have a say over non-economic damages awarded in medical malpractice and wrongful death claims, while on the flip side of the coin, other lawmakers believe judges should abide by the policies laid out by legislatures.

While this division between our nation’s body of legislators may not be resolved any time soon, lawmakers seem to agree that victims of medical malpractice and family members of victims of wrongful death deserve at least some compensation for their pain and suffering or medical expenses. Personal injury attorneys in Wisconsin and other states also agree, which is why lawyers dedicated to this field of practice continue to work hard for the rights of medical malpractice victims.

Source:, “Tort Reform: Should Lawmakers Cap Medical Malpractice Damages?” S.M. Oliva, Mar. 20, 2014