Supreme Court: Malpractice Caps Arguments Set

Mar 22, 2016

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments June 9 in a case about the constitutionality of medical-malpractice damage caps that the Legislature approved in 2003.

The court issued an order last week setting the argument date in an appeal filed by the North Broward Hospital District and other health providers.

The appeal stemmed from a July ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal that the 2003 law's limits on non-economic damages are unconstitutional in personal-injury cases. The dispute stems from a medical-malpractice lawsuit filed in 2008 by dental assistant Susan Kalitan, who suffered a perforated esophagus after tubes were inserted into her mouth as part of the anesthesia process during a surgery for carpal-tunnel syndrome.

A jury awarded Kalitan about $4.7 million, with $4 million of that in non-economic damages, which are commonly known as pain-and-suffering damages, according to court records.

But a circuit judge, applying the caps from the 2003 law, reduced the non-economic damages award by about $2 million. The 4th District Court of Appeal, however, ruled that the caps in personal-injury cases were unconstitutional.

That came after the Supreme Court in 2014 rejected caps on non-economic damages in wrongful-death cases. The 2003 law was highly controversial and passed after months of battling in the Legislature. Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has filed a brief in the Kalitan case urging the Supreme Court to uphold the damage limits.