InNormil, the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants for medical
malpractice after their minor child was rendered brain damaged following
care by the defendants. At trial, the jury rendered a verdict of $28.5
million in favor of the plaintiffs. The trial later reduced the damages
award based on Fla. Stat. 766.118. The defendants appealed and the plaintiffs
The Fourth District first considered whether the trial court properly excluded
evidence of free or low cost medical care available to the minor child.
The Fourth District noted that the "collateral source rule functions
as both a rule of damages and a rule of evidence, allowing a plaintiff
to recover full compensatory damages despite any compensation obtained
from a source other than the tortfeasor and prohibiting the introduction
of such collateral payments." Evidence of collateral sources misleads
the jury on the issue of liability. The Fourth District noted that the
Florida Supreme Court recently issued its opinion in Joerg v. State Farm
Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., in which it held that evidence of future
benefits from Medicare and Medicaid is inadmissible as collateral sources."
The Fourth District found that the trial court in this case properly excluded
evidence of free or low cost care, and that ruling was further supported
by the Florida Supreme Court's decision in Joerg.
The Fourth District next considered the plaintiffs' appeal of the trial
court's reduction of the damages award based upon Fla. Stat. 766.118.
The Fourth District noted that it recently held that, based upon the Florida
Supreme Court's McCall opinion, "the section 766.118 caps are
unconstitutional not only in wrongful death actions, but also in personal
injury suits as they violate equal protection." The Fourth District,
in this case, again held that the caps are unconstitutional.
Therefore, the Fourth District remanded the case so that the judgment may
reflect the full amount of noneconomic damages awarded by the jury.