11th Circuit Court Lends a Hand to Florida Tort Reform

A recent decision out of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will help Florida’s tort reform efforts. As part of broad tort reform measures, the Florida Legislature implemented a $1 Million cap on noneconomic damages (e.g. pain and suffering damages). Florida has had a hard road in implementing tort reform measures, which often fall under Florida Supreme Court analysis; and many insiders wondered if the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta would strike Florida’s cap. Nope!

The case involved the death of a woman following childbirth. The District Court determined her death was caused by the negligence of her medical team, the members of which were U.S. military employees. The plaintiffs were awarded $2 Million in noneconomic damages, but the court reduced it to comply with the $1 Million noneconomic damage cap. On appeal to the 11th Circuit, the plaintiffs argued that the cap violated the state’s equal protection clause; but the court rejected the argument.

Since, however, the court did not address other aspects of the plaintiff’s state constitutional challenge (right of access clause, right to jury trial clause and separation of powers clause), the matter was sent to the Florida Supreme Court for final resolution. The state Supreme Court may take up the case; and if it does, it’ll be important to watch.