Bills Aim To Change or Repeal Florida’s Free Kill Law

changing Florida's free kill law

Florida legislators are set to take up several bills that have been filed to repeal a law related to medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits

The law under scrutiny, known as Florida’s “Free Kill Law,” is found in Section 768.21 of Florida Statutes. It provides that, after a death caused by a doctor or other medical care provider’s negligence, the surviving family members cannot pursue a malpractice claim if the deceased patient was over the age of 25, unmarried, and had no children under the age of 25.

In other words, a 30-year-old whose unmarried father died after his doctor failed to assess and treat his elevated risk for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism had no legal recourse for his loss. That’s the story of Sabrina Davis and her late father, Keith Davis, as told by First Coast News.

After an independent autopsy revealed the cause of Keith Davis’s death, the Florida Department of Health found that his doctor committed medical malpractice, First Coast News says. Had he survived, he could have sued. But, with his death, his family had no legal recourse.

Only surviving spouses and minor children can file medical malpractice claims under the current Florida law. Florida is the only state whose wrongful death laws differentiate medical malpractice from other types of wrongful death, the Pensacola News Journal reports.

Four Bills Propose To Change the Free Kill Law

In this year’s legislative session, House Bill 129 and three related bills would repeal language in Section 768.21 of Florida Statutes that prohibits adult children and parents of adult children from recovering certain damages in medical negligence suits. The new law proposed by HB 129 would be called the “Keith Davis Family Protection Act.”

Companion bills include:

  • House Bill 77 —It removes language from Section 768.21 that prevents parents of an adult child from recovering damages in medical negligence claims.
  • Senate Bill 248 — The bill specifically says a lawsuit may seek damages for the adult children and each parent of the decedent if the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration or the Florida Department of Health finds probable cause for the claim to move forward.
  • Senate Bill 310 —The bill also amends Section 768.21 to remove language that prevents parents of an adult child from recovering damages in medical negligence claims.

If the House and Senate pass different versions of the bills, a conference committee of senators and representatives would seek to negotiate a compromise version to be sent back to each body for a final vote. If it passes, it would forwarded to the governor to sign into law or veto.

“The bills to end the Free Kill Law have support from Republicans and Democrats but are certain to face challenges from the insurance and medical communities when the session starts in January,” WESH Channel 2 in Orlando reported.

Why Is There Opposition to Eliminating Florida’s Free Kill Law?

It is not surprising that the insurance and medical communities are opposed to strengthening the rights of aggrieved family members to pursue damages in medical malpractice and wrongful death claims. A recent study by the Yale School of Medicine suggests that there are just over 22,000 preventable inpatient deaths a year in the United States.

According to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, as reported by Becker’s ASC Review, Florida had 1,668 adverse action and medical malpractice payment reports in 2022. Only California and Texas, two states with larger populations,  had higher numbers of reported medical malpractice payments.

Most hospital errors involve poor monitoring or management of medical conditions, diagnostic errors, and errors related to surgery and medical procedures, the Yale School of Medicine study shows.

At Chiumento Law, PLLC, our dedicated Palm Coast medical malpractice attorneys have been fighting for the rights of injured patients for more than 40 years. We know that a serious injury caused by a doctor or a medical facility’s staff can upend your life forever. The preventable death of a family member can be especially devastating for the loved ones left behind.

In addition to the heartbreak of catastrophic injuries or avoidable deaths, preventable medical errors are incredibly costly in terms of medical bills and lost income and support for the injured or deceased patient’s dependent loved ones.

Our attorneys fight for injured Palm Coast residents because, even when a healthcare provider’s error and its role in your injury or loss is unquestionable, the provider’s insurance company will try to get you to accept the lowest possible settlement. How should a grieving spouse or adult child know what compensation they deserve for a medical malpractice claim?

Our personal injury lawyers know how to calculate the full extent of your losses. We are ready to stand up to insurance companies to pursue maximum compensation for you.

Contact Our Experienced Palm Coast Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to a medical error in Central Florida, our Palm Coast medical malpractice attorneys can work with you to identify what compensation you may be able to pursue. Florida’s statutes of limitations typically allow two years to file a wrongful death claim. It is unknown at this point how legislation proposing to eliminate Florida’s Free Kill Law might affect your case if you are the adult child of a deceased medical malpractice victim who was not married

At Chiumento Law, PLLC, our goal is to take the burden off of you and your family, so you can focus on recovering from your loss. Our medical malpractice lawyers handle wrongful death and personal injury claims, including medical malpractice cases, on a contingent fee basis. You don’t pay any legal fee at all if we do not recover compensation for you.

Contact a compassionate medical malpractice attorney today for a free consultation about the details of your case.

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