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Court Backs Teen in Abortion Notification Case


A state appeals court this week approved a request by a 17-year-old high-school honors student to receive an abortion without her parents being notified, overturning a decision of a Hillsborough County circuit judge.

The ruling Tuesday by the 2nd District Court of Appeal was the second case in a week stemming from a 2004 constitutional amendment that requires parents to be notified before their minor daughters can have abortions.

The voter-approved amendment and subsequent laws created a process for minors to go to court to seek to prevent notification, a process known as receiving a "waiver."

In Tuesday's decision, the appeals court found that the teen, identified only as Jane Doe, had met her legal burden for receiving a waiver. It said a circuit judge disregarded the teen's testimony that she had researched the abortion procedure and risks and also apparently discounted her testimony that she had considered alternatives.

"Jane Doe is almost eighteen years old and a high school honors student,'' said the appeals-court opinion, written by Judge Edward LaRose and joined by Judge Douglas Wallace. "She plans to attend college in the fall. She testified that her current condition would impact adversely her future plans. She also testified that her parents were strict, controlling, and demanding. At times they acted out of spite toward her. She feared that they would disown her if notified of her pregnancy."

But Judge Anthony Black dissented, arguing that the case should be sent back to another circuit judge. A different panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal last week upheld a circuit judge's decision to deny a waiver for another pregnant teen.

Justices Weigh Medical Malpractice Cap

Florida Supreme Court justices Wednesday questioned attorneys in a long-running dispute about whether a 2003 medical-malpractice law should limit the amount of money a woman can receive for complications suffered after surgery on her leg.

The Miami-Dade County case centers on whether damage caps approved by lawmakers should apply to the case of Kimberly Ann Miles, who was injured before the 2003 law was passed, but did not file a lawsuit until January 2006.

A jury awarded Miles and her husband $1.5 million in non-economic damages, but that amount was reduced to $500,000 because of the law. Philip Burlington, an attorney for Miles, told the Supreme Court that the damage caps should not apply retroactively to injuries suffered before the law was passed and that doing so would violate constitutional due-process rights.

But Dinah Stein, an attorney for the defendant in the case, physician Daniel Weingrad, said non-economic damages - which are typically awarded for such things as pain and suffering - are "tremendously discretionary on the part of the jury" and that applying the limits retroactively did not take away Miles' rights.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal sided with Weingrad in the case, but a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling in another lawsuit took a different stance on retroactivity.

In court documents, Miles' attorneys said she was diagnosed with melanoma in 2002 and had a tumor removed. She then went to see Weingrad, a surgical oncologist, who said the first procedure did not remove all of the melanoma and that she needed an additional surgery. The lawsuit alleged that tests later showed the second procedure was unnecessary and that Miles suffered complications that included needing to be hospitalized for an infection. The court documents said she suffered permanent damage. The Supreme Court typically takes months to issue opinions in such cases.