I personally oppose a system of government which showers special interest groups with favors. It is now abundantly clear that the Florida legislature, showered the doctors in Florida with favored treatment in 2003 when it enacted caps on damages in medical malpractice cases, based on bogus information from the American Medical Association.
What is a cap on damages? A cap is a legislatively dictated maximum amount which can be granted by a court of law no matter what the jury says the damages are. For instance, if a woman dies after delivering a healthy baby boy when the doctors butcher her insides and causes her to bleed to death, a question comes up about how much her surviving son should get for the loss of his mom. This very thing happened in the case of the Estate of McCall v US, when the mother died in 2006. The court awarded $2,000,000 in damages. It was later reduced to $1,000,000 because of the cap which the legislature set in 2003.
How did the legislature justify the cap? It based its decision on bad information supplied by the American Medical Association. The AMA said 1) Florida was a “crisis” state and doctors were getting sued so much they were leaving to go somewhere else, and 2) average verdicts in Florida against doctors were so high that they could not get affordable malpractice insurance.
It should come as no surprise that both points were wrong:
- Accounting Office, No. GAO-04-124, Physician Workforce: Physician Supply Increased in Metropolitan and Non metropolitan Areas but Geographic Disparities Persisted (Oct. 2003), at 23, available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04124.pdf (finding that, from 1991 to 2001, Florida’s physician supply per 100,000 residents grew from 214 to 237 in metropolitan areas and from 98 to 117 in non-metropolitan areas, or percentage increases of 11 and 19, respectively)
- U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 216339, Medical Malpractice Insurance Claims in Seven States 2000-2004 (Mar. 2007), at 1, available at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/mmicss04.pdf (finding that nearly 43 percent of Florida medical malpractice insurance claims were closed with a payout of combined economic and non-economic damages of less than $100,000, two-thirds under $250,000, and only 5.5 percent had a payout of more than $1 million).
In other words, there was not a crisis to justify caps on medical malpractice verdicts in 2003. Shame on you legislators who take away peoples’ rights and give favors to special interest groups like doctors.
The battle is not over. The Florida Supreme Court has been asked to review the McCall case and the statute and tell us if it is constitutional or not.