Understanding The “Free Kill” Bill
It’s basically the opposite of what it sounds like and is meant to fix a hole under Florida law that specifically involves medical malpractice lawsuits and wrongful death actions.
Under Jeb Bush, a special effort was made to protect doctors and hospitals from “junk” lawsuits and massive jury verdicts. As part of the legislation, most of which has been repealed, the law forbade the parents of adult children from filing medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors on the grounds of wrongful death.
In other words, if your child was under the age of 25, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit against a doctor or hospital, but once your child became 26, you no longer could. If the individual was unmarried and had no children, then there would be no one who could file a medical malpractice lawsuit on the grounds of wrongful death.
This set up a perverse incentive for surgeons to allow patients to die rather than face a medical malpractice lawsuit based on a current injury. A new house bill with bipartisan support will attempt to close the loophole in wrongful death lawsuits filed on a theory of medical malpractice.
Do other torts work like this?
Absolutely not. If your 27-year-old child is killed by a truck driver, you can still file a wrongful death lawsuit against them. If they are killed by a doctor, however, you cannot. Why? Well, there was a widespread belief that capping medical malpractice damages and preventing medical malpractice lawsuits would lower the cost of medical care across the board. Unfortunately, this never happened. Medical care costs have continued to go up even as doctors avoid lawsuits related to wrongful death and damage caps prevented jury awards from eclipsing $2 million.
However, a few years ago, a case made it before the Florida Supreme Court in which a woman was catastrophically injured by her doctor resulting in the loss of most of her limbs. Her attorneys fought the cap on damages all the way to the Florida Supreme Court where the Court ruled the damage caps on medical malpractice payments were Unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution. In other words, it unfairly denied access to the justice system to specific individuals who were injured or killed in a specific way.
This lawsuit resulted in the repealing of much of the Florida law that dealt with placing limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits. However, the provision that prevented parents from filing suits on behalf of deceased 26-year-old children somehow survived. Today, it is still on the books and if your 26-year-old child is killed due to a doctor or hospital’s negligence, their parents will not be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf or recover damages from a wrongful death lawsuit filed on their child’s behalf by children or a spouse.
Efforts to make the law make sense are currently underway.
Talk to a Port St. Lucie & Stuart, FL Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured due to the negligence of another party, call the Port St. Lucie personal injury attorneys at Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your options in greater detail.