Medical Malpractice “Crisis” Lawsuit is Dropped
A lawsuit has been dropped that would allow a brother and sister to pursue non-economic damages after their mother died of lung cancer. The State of Florida bars actions for medical malpractice in certain instances, and these statutes are holdovers from the Jeb-Bush era medical malpractice tort reform that capped damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and put several requirements on plaintiffs if they wanted to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, but it was since dropped by the siblings, so it will not go before the Supreme Court.
Why Is This Significant?
Wrongful death actions require that those who are named in a claim have a certain relationship to the deceased. Generally, spouses and dependent children have standing to bring a claim, and there are situations where siblings, adult children, and other family members may have claims. These provisions are roughly consistent across all 50 states, but in Florida, there are additional requirements that are only related to medical malpractice lawsuits.
The law in question bars adult children, over the age of 25, from recovering non-economic (pain and suffering damages) in medical malpractice lawsuits. This is significant only because the law is not applied uniformly across all tort claims. This law is only applied to medical malpractice lawsuits, and it is not the only such statute on the books. In addition, parents can be barred from filing medical malpractice/wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of adult children.
Santiago and Caceres Reyes filed a wrongful death lawsuit under a theory of medical malpractice after their mother died of lung cancer. The lawsuit was dismissed because Florida statutes barred adult children from recovering in this type of claim. The ruling was upheld on appeal, and the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. The decision stated that the medical malpractice statutes were needed to avert a supposed medical malpractice insurance “crisis” (which is very debatable).
The main question was whether or not there existed enough justification (ie: a medical malpractice insurance ‘crisis’) to warrant a statute that appears to be in violation of the State Constitution’s equal-protection clause.
In other words, the plaintiffs hoped to force the defendants (and the State of Florida) to prove that such a crisis existed to warrant the statute.
When the medical malpractice damage caps were struck down, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the statutes were a violation of the equal-protection clause. But the law only barely passed, and the justices were considerably more liberal than they are at present. Since having been replaced by conservative justices, tort reform advocates have been attempting to get the damage caps placed back on the books. But so far, they have been unsuccessful.
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