Post-Judgment Interest Can Make a Big Difference to Malpractice Victims

In a medical malpractice case, winning a jury verdict is usually not the end of the matter. There may be a lengthy appeals process, followed by delays in receiving payment from the negligent doctor or medical provider. This is why Florida, like most states, requires payment of post-judgment interest on any damage award. For example, if a jury awards a victim $100,000 in damages, but the judgment is not paid until two years later, the victim is entitled to the interest that accrues during that two-year period. The interest rate itself is set by Florida law.

Plaintiff Prevails on Appeal, But Loses on Interest Date

But what about a case where the plaintiff loses at trial and prevails on appeal—that is, the appeals court awards a monetary judgment long after the original trial? In such cases, Florida law declares post-judgment interest is payable from the date of the original jury verdict. The idea here is that a plaintiff should not be punished for the jury or trial court’s original error in refusing to award damages.

There is also a third scenario: The trial court’s monetary judgment is modified on appeal. The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal recently addressed such a case. The underlying judgment arose from a medical malpractice and wrongful death complaint brought against several parties, including a doctor. The jury ruled for the plaintiff and awarded total damages in excess of $7.5 million. The trial judge then reduced the award due to Florida’s legislative cap on noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases.

The plaintiff appealed this reduction, which the Fifth District initially rejected. Subsequently, the Florida Supreme Court declared in another case the damage cap in wrongful death cases was unconstitutional. (The Court is currently considering whether to strike down a similar cap in medical malpractice cases.) The Fifth District then withdrew its decision in the present case and ordered the trial judge to reinstate the original jury verdict.

This still left the question of post-judgment interest. The plaintiff argued she was entitled to interest beginning on October 11, 2011, the date of the original jury verdict. The defendant responded that interest should only be owed as of February 29, 2012, the date the trial judge issued the modified award that was eventually reversed on appeal.

On this issue, the Fifth District ultimately sided with the defendant. The court noted the post-judgment interest rule is designed to protect plaintiffs in cases where there is a “reversal” on appeal that results in a monetary judgment. The court said the rule “does not address, and therefore does not apply, where the mandate requires entry of an amended final judgment that only changes the amount of the monetary award,” as was the case here. Accordingly, interest is only owed dating back to February 2012.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

While an argument over interest may not seem that important, consider it often means a difference of thousands of dollars to malpractice victims and their families. That is why you should always work with an experienced Clearwater medical malpractice attorney. Contact the Law Office of Paul B. Genet, P.A. at (727) 538-8865 if you need to speak with an attorney right away.

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