Efforts to reform the medical liability system in Florida date back to the mid-1980s. The first success arising from these efforts was a 1988 law which created an arbitration system and capped non-economic damages for cases that used arbitration. However, since very few plaintiffs agreed to use arbitration, this part of the law was not very effective. The 1988 bill also required that an expert medical opinion be submitted when filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, which may have helped to limit frivolous lawsuits.
Tort reform was not attempted again with any success until 2003, when sweeping reforms limiting non-economic damages were passed during a special session of the legislature. The legislation limited noneconomic damages to $500,000 or $1,000,000, depending on the circumstances of the case.¬†In March 2014, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the cap on damages in cases that result in a patient‚Äôs death.
Three years later, in June of 2017, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the cap on damages was unconstitutional in all medical malpractice cases. The four-member majority found caps on non-economic damages violate equal protection rights, are arbitrary and have had little effect on reducing medical malpractice insurance premiums.
The Florida Supreme Court took another whack at the state‚Äôs medical liability tort reforms in November 2017 when it rejected a 2013 law involving an¬†issue known as ‚Äúex parte‚ÄĚ communications between doctors and defense attorneys. The Court found that Florida‚Äôs Constitutional privacy rights extend beyond death. This means that medical malpractice defense attorneys can no longer interview alleged victims‚Äô previous healthcare providers in private while investigating the claim of negligence.