Pursuant to the Constitution of the United States, as well as the individual state constitutions, ordinary citizens are granted the right to trial by jury, equal protection under the law, and due process of law. Moreover, the Constitution mandates the separation of powers between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government. When state representatives and senators enact legislation that places a cap or limitation on the amount of damages recoverable in medical malpractice lawsuits, each one of the above referenced provisions is violated.
In every lawsuit, the jury alone has the duty and the right to render a verdict following presentation of the evidence; not a state representative or senator who has absolutely no consideration or regard for the individual set of facts and circumstances presented in each case. When a jury is denied this duty and right as a result of the enactment, at the state level, of arbitrary and capricious legislation which places one-size fits all damage caps on verdicts, a crucial piece of the guaranteed right to trial by jury is denied: the determination of damages. Moreover, such legislation, limited only to medical malpractice cases, is clearly in violation of the equal protection and due process clauses. How can there possibly be equal protection under the law when victims who suffer the same damages received different awards based solely upon the method in which they are injured? In other words, would the family of a person killed in a car crash be more worthy of damages than the family of a person who is killed at the hands of a negligent healthcare provider? How is that equal? If you have an answer to these questions, try explaining it to the wife and child of a man who has just lost his life due to the negligent misdiagnosis of his medical condition. I can guarantee you it is not a pleasant conversation to have, and you might reconsider your position on this issue if you actually had to do it.
To all current and future state representatives and senators, when you are approached by healthcare industry lobbyists pushing for caps on damages in medical malpractice cases, I ask that you please consider the following before taking a stance on this issue: If it were your family member who was killed at the hands of a negligent healthcare provider, would you want the damages awarded by the jury to your family arbitrarily and capriciously limited? Do you really think the pain and suffering that comes with the loss of a loved one is only worth $250,000.00? Answer those questions and then decide.
Cameron Stephenson is a lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm in Pensacola, Florida, and handles medical malpractice and other wrongful death cases. He has devoted his legal practice to fighting for the rights of Florida’s injured patients.