More ‘Free Kill’ families speaking out against controversial Florida law
By Karla Ray, WFTV.com
ORLANDO, Fla. — More families are coming forward shedding light on a controversial law that prevents some people from seeking justice in cases of medical malpractice.
9 Investigates has told you about Florida’s so-called “Free Kill Law” before. It limits who can sue in a medical malpractice case.
Cindy Jenkins remembers the call to rush to Osceola County, after her 25-year-old daughter, Taylor, was rear-ended at a red light. The impact and force against the lap band of her seatbelt tore an artery, but doctors failed to diagnose the internal bleeding that would lead to her death.
Taylor had been bleeding internally for hours while lying in the hospital bed. Her heart partially collapsed, and she became brain-dead due to the massive blood loss. An independent autopsy confirmed the misdiagnosis, prompting the medical examiner to revise the cause of death.
As Cindy started making calls to attorneys, they all had the same response.
“The first three things they ask: How old was Taylor? Was she married? Did she have kids? And when I said no, they would say, ‘We are so sorry to tell you this,’” Jenkins said.
Lawyers repeatedly informed her that Florida’s “Free Kill Law” would prevent her from seeking damages for medical malpractice-related wrongful death. The law limits such claims to surviving spouses or children under the age of 25, leaving Taylor’s family just beyond the scope of recourse.
William Large, a tort reform expert with the Florida Justice Reform Institute, acknowledged the emotional toll on affected families but pointed out that changing the law could potentially strain the healthcare system in Florida.
“This would be a cost-driver for our healthcare delivery system, and [legislators] don’t want to undo that exception,” Large said.
Cindy has filed complaints with the Florida Department of Health, which could lead to fines being placed against the practitioners.
“It is business as usual,” Jenkins said. “Our lives have been ripped apart, turned up, and they’ll never be the same again.”
The most recent effort to change the law would have removed language that prohibited adult children and parents of an adult child to seek damages in medical negligence suits, but the bill never made it out of committee, even with initial bipartisan support.