In Tampa, Florida yesterday a jury awarded $21 million to a couple whose son was born with severe birth defects. The parents claimed that a doctor at the University of South Florida misdiagnosed a severe birth defect, Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, which is the inability to correctly produce or synthesize cholesterol. This misdiagnosis led the couple to have a second child with similar problems. The award of $21 million will be used to provide the constant care the now 2-year old child will need for the rest of his life as a result of his birth defect.
However, due to Florida’s $200,000 cap on lawsuits against government agencies, these parents may never be able to collect the award and provide the care their son needs. This is a classic example of how tort reform can arbitrarily and unfairly affect those severely injured by another’s negligence. A jury is often a representative group called upon to speak for the community. In this case, the jury determined that because of a doctor’s negligence, $21 million was an appropriate amount that would enable the couple to care for their severely handicapped child for the rest of his life. Instead, because the Florida legislature has imposed an arbitrary cap on these types of awards, the parents stand to receive only $200,000 – barely enough to care for the child for a year.
The attorney for the parents plans to petition the legislature to allow the award of damages.
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