Posted: April 4, 2014

The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the caps on malpractice awards in the state of Florida.  As reported in the Miami Herald the Court threw out the caps not only on future cases but on cases still in the pipeline.  Furthermore, by the wording of the opinion, the Court has made it difficult for the Florida Legislature to find a path to construct new, perhaps more generous caps.  The Court stated that the entire idea of caps is illegal.  What does this mean for the average Florida doctor?  Dr. Stark comments, ” I have spoken to a prominent Florida personal injury lawyer who is delighted to see the caps go.  He and I have a case together in which the defendant will likely have to settle out of court just because of inadequate insurance coverage given the ruling.  This case should settle but the doctor should have had the right to a day in court.  Now the wrong jury could bankrupt her.  Because the cap was so low (it topped out at a$1Million for unusual cases but was usually much lower) and doctors could under Florida law shelter their assets, many doctors in Florida went without malpractice insurance altogether.   Now the questions are: what will doctors do in the future; and what should they do now for cases in the pipeline; who will sell them insurance; and how much do they need?  This destructive ruling by the Florida Supreme Court, in the face of all reasonableness, has created chaos in a market that in recent years functioned fairly well, even if tilted somewhat in favor of the doctor.  Most states with caps have reached reasonable compromises on what that cap should consist of.  In Virginia it is $2M, allowing doctors to buy insurance for reasonable rates knowing they are protected.  In Florida all is up in the air, and it didn’t need to be that way.”

Updata 2020: in 2017 the Florida Supreme Court threw out the caps set by the latest prior statute.  So arguably everything is back to square one.  This has thrown doctors and their insurance carriers into disarray.  How much insurance do you need?  Good question.