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Court rulings could change color of Florida med mal cases

The law is a dynamic thing. Not only do laws change by legislative action, but their effects can also be changed as issues are decided by the courts. A couple of doses of such change have been delivered in recent months and the result is that the complexion of medical malpractice law in Florida appears to be changing.

Most people may be unaware of the implications, but they are matters we are sure experienced personal injury attorneys across the state have been tracking for the sake of the rights of anyone injured or killed due to medical negligence.

The latest case we can point to came late last month from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — a court with jurisdiction in Florida. A three-judge panel ruled that exemptions that have allowed cruise ship companies to avoid being sued for alleged malpractice by ship doctors are out of date and should be shelved.

The case involved an 82-year-old man who died shortly after falling and hitting his head while on a cruise. His family claims that unwarranted delays by medical personnel resulted in the death. The circuit court decision is seen as a victory for the family, but the cruise line is seeking to appeal the ruling.

Earlier in the year, the Miami Herald reported how the Florida Supreme Court pulled the rug from under the 2003 medical malpractice overhaul law. In a 5-2 ruling, the justices concluded that a cap on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases in which medical negligence is provable violates individuals’ rights to equal protection under the state’s constitution.

Not only did the jurists say that the cap runs counter to the constitution, but they suggested that backers of the bill in the Legislature had alleged a medical malpractice litigation crisis where none existed.

Prior to the decision, the caps in the law limited payments to victims of wrongful death due to medical malpractice to either $500,000 or $1 million. The amount depended on the details of the case. With the decision, the limits were lifted, but only for cases filed since the ruling.

As we have said, the law changes and the way to determine if you have a valid case is by consulting an attorney.

Source: Bigstory.ap.org, “Ruling opens door for cruise malpractice lawsuits,” Curt Anderson, Dec. 23, 2014