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Medical Malpractice ‘Crisis’ Case Dropped

Gavel and a stethoscope
Flickr Creative

A case that raised questions about whether Florida has a medical-malpractice insurance “crisis” has been dropped, according to a document filed late Thursday at the Florida Supreme Court. 

Attorneys for plaintiffs Sandra Santiago and Norma Caceres filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of the case, though the notice did not explain the reasons. The Supreme Court in December agreed to take up the Lee County case, which involved whether a medical-malpractice insurance crisis exists to justify limiting damages in certain lawsuits.

A state law prevented Santiago and Caceres, the adult children of Ramona Reyes, from recovering non-economic damages --- commonly known as pain and suffering damages --- in a malpractice lawsuit stemming from Reyes’ lung-cancer death.

The law bars adult children from recovering non-economic damages for wrongful death in medical-malpractice cases, though adult children are able to seek such damages for wrongful death in other types of lawsuits.

That legal difference led attorneys for Santiago and Caceres to argue that the medical-malpractice law violates constitutional equal-protection rights. The 2nd District Court of Appeal in October upheld a circuit judge’s decision to dismiss the Reyes lawsuit, pointing to a 2000 Florida Supreme Court decision.

That decision cited arguments by the Legislature that barring adult children from recovering non-economic damages was needed because of a medical-malpractice crisis that involved skyrocketing insurance costs for doctors and other health providers.

But the appeals court urged the Supreme Court to revisit the issue --- a move known as certifying a “question of great public importance” --- because of 2014 and 2017 Supreme Court rulings that questioned the existence of a medical-malpractice crisis. Those rulings rejected other damage limits in malpractice cases.