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Florida Third DCA upholds constitutionality of Florida’s $350,000 monetary cap on non-economic damages in medical negligence case in which plaintiff rejected voluntary binding pre-suit arbitration

On December 18, 2019, in Poole v. DeFranko, No. 3D18-1809, the Florida Third DCA reversed a trial court’s determination that Florida Statutes 766.207(7)(k) and 766.209(4)(a) are unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution. The statutes place a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in any medical negligence case in which the plaintiff has declined the defense’s pre-suit arbitration request submitted in compliance with the statutes. The plaintiff relied on the Florida Supreme Court’s plurality opinion in Estate of McCall v. United States, 134 So. 3d 894 (Fla. 2014), and the majority opinion in North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan, 219 So. 3d 49 (Fla. 2017), which found unconstitutional other statutory caps on non-economic damages awarded in medical negligence cases against health care providers. The Third DCA concluded that since the arbitration cap had previously been held constitutional by the Florida Supreme Court in University of Miami v. Echarte, 618 So. 2d 189 (Fla. 1993) and Escharte had previously been cited by the Third DCA as controlling precedent in Alvarez v. Lifemark Hospitals of Florida, Inc., 208 So. 3d 221 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016), a citation affirmance, the DCA’s standard of review and policy of restraint concerning constitutional questions dictated their determination.