Supreme Court Declares Florida’s Medical Malpractice Caps Unconstitutional

I am a Florida medical malpractice lawyer who helps patients and their families when one of them has been injured or killed by careless doctors and hospitals. For most of my legal career, I have been unable to get victims full justice for their pain and suffering. Since 2003, Florida’s healthcare industry has slept soundly, knowing that regardless of what verdict a jury may return against them, they would be insulated by Florida Statute §766.118 and thereby would not be held fully accountable to pay any amount in excess of $500,000 for an injury, or $1,000,000 for the death of a patient, regardless of how many children or dependents were left behind. Thankfully, all that has now changed. The Florida Supreme, after over a decade of challenges, has finally declared those caps unconstitutional. Their decision was based upon the case of Michelle McCall, who died after she bled to death following a caesarean section during the birth of her a son in February 2006 at a U.S. Air Force hospital in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. A United States federal judge agreed that McCall had not received proper care and found that her parents and son should receive $2 million for their pain and suffering. But then that verdict award was reduced to $1 million to comply with Florida’s damages cap. The verdict was challenged on appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta as violating the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court upheld the verdict, ruling that it did not violate the federal law, but suggested that the Florida Supreme Court should consider if it violated the...

Protecting People from Dangerous Drugs

When it comes to potentially dangerous drugs–like testosterone replacement therapies—or cars, or even a light bulb, manufacturers always know more about the product’s risks than its consumer does. The law in our country that protects us from makers of those products–who put their profit ahead of the safety of people–is commonly referred to as strict liability. STRICT LIABILITY LAW The law of strict liability dates back hundreds of years, when people were found to be legally responsible for the damages they caused by conducting certain “inherently dangerous activities,” like transporting dynamite or keeping a tiger in their apartment. In those situations, to win their cases the plaintiffs or injured parties do not have to prove that the defendant was careless, but merely the extent of their injuries. That is a significantly easier case for a plaintiff. As the law has evolved, it has become one of the few remaining protections of the injured when a dangerous or defective product is sold that hurts or kills people. GM RECALLS 1.6 MILLION CARS The most compelling and recent example of how the strict liability law can be used to protect the injured is the delayed recall by General Motors of nearly 2 million vehicles that have faulty ignition systems and have been linked to a dozen deaths. The defect that prompted the recall is a faulty ignition switch that can suddenly turn off a car, leaving it difficult to steer and disabling its air bags. The cause has been traced to not having enough resistance in the ignition switch to counter the weight of heavy keys and key chains. This is also an important...

Surgery Malpractice Lawyers Investigate Robotic Surgery Cases

Leer este artículo en Español. The future is now for patients undergoing surgeries performed by robots. Robotic surgery has been around since 1998–when a German patient at the Leipzig Heart Center underwent minimally invasive surgery performed by a robot. In robotic surgery, the robot’s movements are controlled remotely by a human surgeon who sits at a console that features a magnified 3D high-definition view of the surgical site. According to the promoters of da Vinci, a robotic surgical system made by the American company Intuitive Surgical, the benefits for patients with robotic surgery include feeling less pain, experiencing shorter recovery time, and–depending on the operation–less blood loss, because apparently a robotic arm is more precise, has greater range of motion and, unlike a human hand, does not tremble. So far, Intuitive Surgical has sold more than 2,500 surgery robots to hospitals all over the world and enjoyed revenues in excess of $2 billion last year alone. Since going public just 13 years ago at $9 a share, Intuitive’s stock price has soared above $500 a share, making its current market value over $20 billion. MINIMALLY INVASIVE SURGERY (MIS) Minimally Invasive Surgeries performed by da Vinci robots are those where a small incision is used, rather than a larger zipper-like opening. So far, more than 1.5 million MIS operations using the da Vinci robot have been performed, ranging from abdominal general surgery and gynecology procedures to thoracic and lung operations. ROBOTIC SURGERY DANGERS In May, Intuitive issued an “urgent medical device notification” to doctors, hospitals, and the FDA that it had “identified a potential issue” with one of the robot’s...

Recalled Vaginal Mesh Cases

The country’s first trial against a manufacturer of a vaginal mesh ended during the second day of testimony when Federal Judge Joseph Goodwin declared a mistrial. The trial being heard in Charleston, West Virginia came to a grinding halt when the plaintiff’s expert, Lennox Hoyte, M.D., testified about that the defendant, CR Bard, Inc., had withdrawn the device from the market last year, in direct contradiction to the court’s ruling to exclude that fact from the jury. The case was one of four bellwether cases set for trial at that time. The four case are . . . Cisson, et al. v. C. R. Bard, Inc. 2:11-cv-00195 Queen, et al. v. C. R. Bard, Inc. 2:11-cv-00012 Rizzo, et al. v. C. R. Bard, Inc. 2:10-cv-01224 Jones v. C. R. Bard, Inc. 2:11-cv-00114 ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url EFFECTS OF A MISTRIAL I have, sadly, experienced several times the heartbreak of a having a judge declare a mistrial. It can be very difficult and expensive for the plaintiff’s lawyers, who have blocked off enormous time and spent much money to prepare for trial. A trial of this magnitude, I imagine, took months if not years for the lawyers to prepare. At that point in the trial, a jury had already been selected, and opening arguments had been made. The defense had already heard the specific questions and how they case was themed by the plaintiffs and could go back and re-tune the defense for the next trial. It is as if...

Faulty Hip Implants

The demand for hip replacements is skyrocketing. And in the coming years, more and more people will be undergoing artificial hip replacement surgeries–not just to replace their failing hips, but to replace defective metal-on-metal hip implants that have failed because of design defects, especially in young people. Leer este artículo en español. Metal-on-metal hip implants that are made with large-diameter ball-and-sockets were designed especially for sale to younger patients in their early 40s who would need their hip implants to last longer than traditional hip implants for patients in their 70s. ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url Until recently, these types of large-diameter metal-on-metal hip implants were rarely used. But in the last couple of years they have become the norm for hip-implant surgeons. A new study just released in Canada shows that these types of metal-on-metal hip replacements are more likely to fail within the first five years than other types of implants. As a result, for many of these patients their hip implant surgeries that were undertaken to improve their lives have in some cases destroyed the quality of their lives. Experts disagree on why the metal-on-metal hips fail, but one thing is certain: when they do, they release tiny microscopic fragments of metal directly into the patient’s blood stream, causing a condition called metal poisoning, or metallosis. Typically patients experience leaking, swelling, pain, and extreme fatigue. REVISION SURGERIES TO FIX FAILED HIP IMPLANTS Patients whose artificial hips have failed often need to undergo early replacement surgeries. These surgeries...

Hospital Delay Causes Second Stroke

Angel Acosta suffered a stroke while being seen at North Shore Hospital in Miami. He and his wife Maria sued Leon Medical Centers Health Plans, doing business as HealthSpring, which provided Medicare insurance benefits to the couple, for failing to authorize transportation from North Shore Hospital to the University of Miami, where a life-saving procedure known as a carotid endarterectomy could have been performed before he suffered another stroke. The delay in authorizing his transfer resulted in his suffering a second stroke four days later. The Acostas allege that the delay in Leon’s authorization was due to HealthSpring’s trying to find a cheaper facility than the University of Miami to perform the procedure. The lawsuit was based upon breach of contract for the clerical error in not authorizing the transfer rather than for medical malpractice. ARVE Error: id and provider shortcodes attributes are mandatory for old shortcodes. It is recommended to switch to new shortcodes that need only url Upon the Acostas’ filing of the lawsuit, HealthSpring moved to dismiss the complaint for failing to attach the policy and sought to remove the case to federal court. At no time did HealthSpring plead that the Acostas had failed to comply with Florida’s rigorous and burdensome medical malpractice pre-suit requirements, which are a costly and complicated legal gauntlet that injured patients are mandated to cross. Leer este artículo en español The Acostas filed an amended complaint, in which they sued North Shore Medical Center and the doctor who treated him there, Rehan Naqui, M.D. In the amended complaint against these new defendants, the Acostas complied with the pre-suit requirements in...
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