In 2000, a Florida Supreme Court decision drew attention to a medical malpractice “crisis,” that was allegedly causing insurance costs to skyrocket for doctors and other health providers.
Rulings in 2014 and 2017, however, questioned this crisis. As a result, a court at the appellate level has asked the Supreme Court to reconsider their precedent.
Lung-Cancer Case Could Cause Change
More specifically, a wrongful death lawsuit resulting from a woman’s lung cancer inspired the 2nd District Court of Appeal to challenge the constitutionality of a certain rule affecting medical malpractice cases.
Under current law, the adult children of deceased medical malpractice victims are barred from recovering pain and suffering and other non-economic damages from their lawsuits. Plaintiffs in other types of complaints are not barred from receiving this same compensation.
Consequently, attorneys have begun to argue that this law violates the equal-protection rights outlined in the U.S. constitution. By urging the Supreme Court to consider these arguments and revisit the issue of a medical malpractice crisis, the appeals court is agreeing with many lawyers and “certifying a question of great public importance.”
Would the Issue be Addressed Differently Today?
Although the appeals court ruled against the children of the cancer/medical malpractice victim, justices could not help but wonder if the 2000 precedent is outdated. In light of the case, combined with the 2014 and 2017 decisions that question the “crisis” established in 2000, the appeals court wrote the following:
“[We] are bound to follow [the precedent] even if the Supreme Court’s subsequent decisions in related cases suggest that it might decide the case differently if it were to address the issue today. When a district court believes that a Supreme Court case has been incorrectly decided or should be reevaluated… the proper procedure is to follow the precedential case and certify a question of great public importance that presents the district court’s concerns.”
The question was posed on October 18, 2019. The Supreme Court could decide to uphold its precedent, overturn it, or dismiss the question altogether.
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