Florida families push for repeal of law that limits who can sue after medical malpractice deaths

ORLANDO, Fla. — For months, 9 Investigates has been reporting on the so-called “Free Kill” law that prevents certain family members from suing following a medical malpractice death.

This week marked three years since Navy veteran Keith Davis called his daughter, Sabrina, to complain about leg pain so severe he couldn’t walk.


“I was there, and I remember asking, ‘Can we check for a clot? My dad has a history’,” Davis said. “And they said, ‘No, no, no, you don’t need an ultrasound. This is not a blood clot.’”

But it was a blood clot, which would partially travel to his heart, killing him. The Florida Department of Health found the doctor in charge of his care was negligent, but because Sabrina’s parents weren’t married, and she was over the age of 25, no one could sue on her dad’s behalf due to Florida’s so-called Free Kill law.

Read: More ‘Free Kill’ families speaking out against controversial Florida law

The law carves out a subset of Floridians who cannot sue for medical malpractice-related deaths: adult children over the age of 25 cannot sue on behalf of their deceased parents, and parents cannot sue on behalf of their adult children over the age of 25.

“I think legislators can help hold these medical licenses to a higher standard of care,” Davis said.

Read: Florida lawmakers promising to tackle ‘free kill’ law again

Now, Davis’ father’s name is attached to a bill, The Keith Davis Family Protection Act, which would eliminate those barriers that prevent certain family members from suing.

“It’s really not keeping physician’s premiums or hospital premiums down, or preventing the costs from going up, or anything like that,” Republican Rep. Mike Beltran said. “It’s just this arbitrary thing, that no other state in the union has.”

But if it’s so arbitrary, why hasn’t it been repealed? Beltran points to the lobbying efforts of hospitals and insurance companies.

Read: Lawmakers again try to finish off Florida’s ‘free kill’ legal loophole

“No hospital or insurance company or physician or lobbyist is going to allow this to pass without making an issue about it,” Beltran said. “I mean, I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But, I don’t think the bill is going to pass.”

Davis said giving up isn’t an option. She’s met with the Speaker of the Florida House Paul Renner, and intends to meet with lawmakers throughout the next legislative session.

“Sad stories are not going to change their mind. They’ve been hearing sad stories for 33 years. If sad stories were going to change this, it would have happened already,” Davis said.

Read: Florida’s medical malpractice law: Who does it actually protect?

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.

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