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Jeanne Uy Go, M.D., v. Fedeline Normil, et al., Case No. 4D13-88 (4th DCA)

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 cross appealed.

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.

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