Finding that an arbitration panel handling a medical malpractice lawsuit erred in the way it awarded loss of companionship and guidance damages to a husband and child in the death of a brand new mother, a Florida appeals court reversed a $4 million award of compensation.
The ruling is disappointing, but the family will still receive compensation and it’s important for medical malpractice lawyers and plaintiffs to understand exactly what went wrong. The primary issue was the fact that damage awards of this nature are considered non-economic damages. Although the Florida Supreme Court has ruled caps on non-economic damages are unconstitutional in medical malpractice cases (both personal injury and wrongful death), F.S. 766.207 holds that non-economic damages recoverable in arbitration proceedings can be limited to $250,000 per incident (serving as yet another example of one of the many ways arbitration agreements can harm injured or wronged plaintiffs). Here, the loss of companionship award was initially categorized as economic damages, and thus not subjected to the arbitration clause limit. It’s also worth noting that the court did not take issue with a finding that a loss of consortium award, finding it warranted.
According to court records from Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, this claim involves the death of a wife and mother due to events that took place during an emergency C-section in August 2014. The mother had lost so much oxygen to her brain while in the hospital that she slipped into a vegetative state, from which she died three months later. Continue reading