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SB 248 puts “Free Kill” Law on verge of Repeal, but caps loom

free kill law, sb 248, florida legislature, florida senate, yarborough, book, kuvin, caps,

Florida’s “Free Kill” law, which has prevented some adult children or parents from suing a doctor or hospital if their unmarried parent or adult child dies due to medical mistakes or negligence, has been on the books since 1990. It was put in place to keep medical malpractice insurance costs down, and keep doctors from leaving Florida. But, the unintended ramifications have proven disastrous to the many families who were not allowed to pursue justice for the death of their loved one.

Fortunately, the Florida legislature is taking steps to repeal the controversial law.

SB 248 Survives First Hurdle

On Monday, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-2 to pass SB 248, which will once again allow lawsuits by parents of deceased adult children and adult children with deceased parents, as long as the Department of Health finds probable cause. However, the proposed legislation comes with a catch: a cap on noneconomic damages.

The bill, filed by State Senator Cal Yarborough (R-Jacksonville), included caps of $500,000 to $750,000 per claimant. While many have praised Yarborough’s efforts to repeal the “Free Kill” provision, families of victims also worry that the caps will undermine steps toward equity.

Yarborough understands the concerns, but said without the cap checks and balances, the bill would have no chance of getting passed. “Efforts over the last several years to do a clean repeal of the subsection have not garnered enough support to pass the Legislature. I knew we would need to find a way to thread the needle and strike a balance.”

“Free Kill” Concerns Abound

Despite the progress to repeal the existing “Free Kill” legislation, there is still considerable concern. Democratic State Senator Lauren Book, who represents a district in Broward County had this to say about SB 248. “I’m not sure that trading one injustice and limiting another is the right way to go. I have a hard time putting a dollar amount on the pain and suffering felt by some of these families.” GOLDLAW’s Litigation Director Spencer Kuvin voiced similar concerns:

“Unfortunately, the legislature has disingenuously attempted to get rid of the free kill law by adding an arbitrary cap on pain and suffering damages.  The Florida Legislature has decided that the citizens of Florida cannot be trusted to properly evaluate the value of a person’s pain and suffering as a result of the loss of a loved one.  This arbitrary cap on pain and suffering damages would also limit the ability to recover under the new law proposed to protect life of unborn children.  This illogical cap would tell parents that while they now will have the ability to file a lawsuit for the loss of their unborn child, their mental pain and suffering will be capped.”

SB 248 still has to pass two more Senate committees before it goes to the full Senate for a vote, and then to the House. If it passes, it will take effect in July 2024 and will not be retroactive.