AP reports some interesting news:

Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill aimed at reducing medical malpractice insurance costs Thursday as trial lawyers vowed to challenge a provision that caps some lawsuit damages.

The bill signing ended a monthslong dispute among Florida Republicans over what Bush called his top priority — lowering malpractice insurance costs to keep doctors from limiting or closing their practices.

The issue, however, is far from resolved. The first suit over a serious medical mistake after the law takes effect Sept. 15 is sure to trigger a challenge to the law, said Neal Roth, a malpractice attorney who has been one of the trial bar’s chief lobbyists working against caps.

“I believe that if the courts of this state simply follow existing law on the subject, it will be overturned,” Roth said.

Bush said he thinks the law will hold up.

“We wouldn’t have advocated and negotiated it if we didn’t think it was constitutional because clearly we want it to work,” Bush said before signing the bill.

The new law limits a doctor’s liability for noneconomic damages — such as pain and suffering — to $500,000 in most medical malpractice cases. A medical facility’s liability will be limited to $750,000 in most cases.

Multiple victims — such as a victim, a spouse and their children — will be able to receive more money with multiple lawsuits, but no group of victims could win more than $2.5 million.

Economic damages, such as for lost wages or medical care, would not be capped.

Roth compared the new law to one that was ruled unconstitutional in 1987. That law would have capped noneconomic damages in any personal injury or wrongful death case at $450,000.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Matthew says:

    A Mason-Dixon poll last week found that the people of Florida seem pretty fed up with the malpractice debate and didn’t buy into the trial lawyer line. The $500K is twice what Bush wanted, but obviously much, much less than what trial lawyers want. It’ll be really interesting to see how this plays out campaign-wise in 2004.