Florida appeals court rules against some medical malpractice damages caps

In a victory for the rights of injured people, a Florida appeals court ruled that limits on certain damages for pain and suffering in personal injury cases are unconstitutional.

In 2003, the Florida legislature set limits of $500,000 in “non-economic damages,” such as damages for pain and suffering, in personal injury cases. In 2014, the Florida Supreme Court found that such limits are unconstitutional in wrongful death lawsuits over medical malpractice. Now, the 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled against certain limits in personal injury cases as well.

The medical malpractice lawsuit in question was first filed by Susan Kalitan, a dental assistant who suffered a perforated esophagus after being put under anesthesia for a carpal tunnel surgery. When she awoke after the surgery, she reported pain in her back and chest, but she was sent home. The next day, she was rushed to the hospital with an infection that resulted from a perforated esophagus. Kalitan then had to undergo neck and chest surgery and was in a medically induced coma for three weeks.

Kalitan was awarded about $4.7 million by a jury, with $4 million of that constituting non-economic damages. The judge applied the limits set by the 2003 law and reduced the non-economic damages award by $2 million.

The appeals court reinstated the jury’s award, finding that when caps discriminate between classes of medical malpractice victims, they violate equal protection rights guaranteed under the Florida Constitution.

Administration proposes new rules to help prevent nursing home abuse

The Obama administration has proposed modernizing federal safety rules that nursing homes must abide by in order to receive Medicaid and Medicare payments.

Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the proposed changes set high standards for safety and quality in nursing homes. The proposals were announced as part of the White House Conference on Aging.

Some of the proposals address nursing home abuse. Nurses would be required to be trained in dementia care and preventing elder abuse. There will also be a requirement that nursing homes report staffing levels, which Medicare officials will review to determine whether they are adequate. This stops short of requiring a federal nurse-to-resident ratio, which many advocates had pushed for. Dr. Shari Ling, the deputy chief medical officer for Medicare, said the administration’s approach focused on competency rather than “a numbers game.”

The proposed changes include measures to ensure that families are more involved in the care of their loved ones, as well as rules to promote more individualized care. For instance, residents would be able to choose their own roommates, and requests for meals and snacks at non-traditional times would be accommodated. The proposed rules also address reducing hospital readmissions, minimizing the use of antipsychotic drugs and antibiotics, and strengthening infection control.

If you suspect that a loved one has been abused or neglected at a nursing home, contact Joyce & Reyes for a free consultation to learn more about your rights.