Too old to file wrongful death suit? Florida law says yes


BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) — After her father died because of a 9-inch long blood clot allegedly missed by hospital staff, Sabrina Davis wanted to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

But according to Florida law, she cannot.

A legal loophole known as the Florida Wrongful Death Act makes it so descendants who are 25 years or older are not eligible to collect in wrongful death claims involving a widowed parent. Parents of descendants over 25 are also not able to file a lawsuit.

“The marital status and the age of someone’s child should not determine if someone is going to be held accountable when they’re at fault for medical negligence,” Sabrina Davis told NewsNation local affiliate WFLA in Florida. “This makes no sense and just protects bad doctors.”

Local lawmakers now want to do something about this. After hearing about what Sabrina Davis is going through, Florida state Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, of Gainesville, sponsored a bill that would strike the exclusion for adult children to file wrongful death claims involving their parents.

Other bills in the Florida Senate and House would eliminate the clause for parents of adult children. Last year, a measure for parents never made it out of the Judiciary Committee, however.

There has been some pushback on Hinson’s bill from lobbyists who claim malpractice insurance costs would rise in a state that already has high rates.

But Hinson says doctors who want to be protected from accountability “need to leave the state of Florida.”

Hinson said without changes, the claims of many malpractice victims will continue to be silenced.

“There are more cases like this than we realize. This has impacted a lot of families,” Hinson, who is confident her bill will get bi-partisan support, said. “Nobody to stick up for them. Nobody to hold them accountable for your life.”

In Davis’ case, when her father Keith went to Brandon Regional Hospital with a sore knee and medical history of blood clots, his concerns were ignored, she said.

“I can move [my leg], but I have to help it with my arm,” Keith Davis said in a video he sent to Sabrina Davis. “Like I said, [my foot] still won’t point up. It still hurts really bad.”

Medical staff insisted an ultrasound wasn’t needed and the issue was not a blood clot, Davis said.

Then, three days later, Keith Davis died at the age of 62.

An autopsy Sabrina Davis paid for showed that a massive blood clot in her father’s leg caused his death. And an investigation report by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) states there was “no documentation…that the [hospital] policy was followed for risk assessment.”

“The representative(s) found that rules were violated at the time of our visit,” the letter states. “The facility received a notice of deficiencies and will be required to correct the deficiencies.”

“It was a slap on the wrist,” Sabrina Davis said. “No accountability. I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed in my life. I didn’t even know I had it in me.”

In an emailed statement about the case, a spokesperson for Brandon Regional Hospital said “the death of a loved one is always very difficult, and our hearts go out to this family.”

“We are committed to providing high-quality care to our patients and rely on physicians to make medical decisions based on their expertise and each patient’s unique healthcare needs,” Ponsler said. 

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