The Florida Supreme Court in a 5-2 vote recently struck down the state’s statutory cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases as a violation of the Florida constitution’s equal protection clause. More important, however, is the fact that the court sharply chastised the state legislature for manufacturing a medical malpractice crisis in order to justify the damage caps, solely for the purpose of increasing the profits of insurance companies.
When the nation was in the midst of the tort reform movement in 2003, the Florida legislature enacted the non-economic damage cap statute, supposedly because runaway jury verdicts in medical malpractice cases were driving up malpractice insurance premiums, leading to doctors seeking employment in other states. The court said that this reasoning was “not fully supported by available data,” and to the contrary, the number of doctors in Florida was actually increasing. The court further accused the legislature of inventing the crisis solely for the benefit of the insurance companies and at the expense of injured patients.
In reality, the increasing insurance premiums were not the result of a “crisis,” but rather were the result of natural and expected industry-wide vacillations in the underwriting cycle, in which insurance companies over-reserve and then under-reserve money for claims. When the insurance companies are under-reserving, premiums inevitably will increase. By blaming the increasing premiums on runaway jury verdicts, the legislature was able to fabricate “a medical malpractice crisis of unprecedented magnitude,” which then gave it the justification it was looking for to put a cap on damages. Of course, these caps increase the insurance companies’ profits.
What do you think of tort reform and caps on damages in personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits? Commend and let us know.