The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the state's cap on pain-and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases, ruling that the limits are unconstitutional.
In a 4-3 ruling, the Florida high court found that limits passed in 2003 on non-economic damages violated equal protection rights under the state constitution.
The state Legislature originally passed the law to address a "medical malpractice insurance crisis," alleging rising malpractice insurance premiums had forced doctors to leave the state or retire early. The law set different limits on awards based on a variety of factors.
But the court majority said there is no evidence that there is a "crisis" that supports the discriminatory award caps.
The court's dissenters said their colleagues ignored the Legislature's fact-finding work and overreached their authority.
Nearly 30 states have laws limiting non-economic damages in malpractice cases, but courts in nearly a dozen states, including Illinois, Georgia and Missouri, have overturned them.
Malpractice premiums have been stable or have declined for a number of years after rising significantly in the early 2000s. But physician and hospital groups continue to press for damage caps, arguing they hold down healthcare costs.