State Capital Briefs: Wednesday, October 26, 2016
STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS (EVENING EDITION): WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2016
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

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APPEALS COURT AGREES DAMAGE CAPS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
As the Florida Supreme Court considers the issue in another case, an appeals court Wednesday ruled that limits on "non-economic" damages in medical-malpractice lawsuits are unconstitutional. The ruling by a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in a Charlotte County case cited a 2015 decision by another appeals court in a Broward County case. The Supreme Court in June heard arguments in the Broward County case but has not ruled. Non-economic damages, which are awarded for issues such as pain and suffering, have long been controversial. The Legislature and then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 approved caps on non-economic damages, pointing to skyrocketing malpractice insurance costs for doctors. But the Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that the caps were unconstitutional in a wrongful-death case involving a woman who died after giving birth in a Northwest Florida hospital. The Charlotte and Broward County cases involve personal-injury claims, rather than wrongful-death claims. The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled against Peace River Regional Medical Center in a lawsuit filed against the hospital and doctors by Iala Suarez, who alleged that negligent care when she was pregnant led to her daughter being born with severe neurological injuries. A jury awarded $5.25 million in non-economic damages to Suarez and her daughter, with the hospital responsible for a portion of that amount. In Wednesday's ruling, written by Judge Robert Morris and joined by judges Patricia Kelly and Nelly Khouzam, the panel said it agreed with the 4th District Court of Appeal in the Broward County case that the limits were unconstitutional.

POLL SHOWS 67 PERCENT SUPPORT POT AMENDMENT
Two-thirds of Florida voters support a proposed constitutional amendment that would broadly legalize medical marijuana, according to a Florida Atlantic University poll released Wednesday. The poll said 67 percent of voters support Amendment 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot, while about 30 percent oppose it. That would be enough support to top a 60 percent threshold for approving constitutional amendments. A similar ballot proposal failed in 2014, when it received about 58 percent of the vote. The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted from Friday to Sunday and has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

FLORIDA SEES 14 MORE ZIKA CASES
With Miami-Dade County continuing to be hit hard, Florida health officials said Wednesday the state has added 14 cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Nine of the additional cases involved the virus being transmitted in Miami-Dade, while four were "travel related," meaning people were infected elsewhere and brought the virus into the state. The Florida Department of Health said it has been unable to determine where exposure occurred in another new case because the person traveled to Miami and to an area out of state that has "widespread Zika transmission." The 14 cases brought the total number of diagnosed cases in the state to 1,078, according to updated information posted on the Department of Health website. Three of the new travel-related cases were in Broward County, while another involved a pregnant woman. The department does not list the counties of pregnant women who have been infected with the virus. Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects. Florida has had 115 Zika cases involving pregnant women.


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10/26/2016

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