What is the Free Kill Statute?

Good morning. I’m Marcus, and welcome to this Michles & Booth video blog this week.

We’re going to talk about something that’s going to be a little bit controversial. We’ll see how it goes. I want to talk to you a little bit about what’s called the “free kill” statute in Florida. That’s right. That sounds pretty offensive, but that’s what it’s called.

The Medical Malpractice Loophole

You know in Florida doctors enjoy tremendous privileges and tremendous status even legally. You know they don’t just get the best tables and restaurants and the best parking places over at the hospital. They’ve acquired the respect and the status that you would expect, but when their lobbyists and their special interests change the laws in Florida, that’s when it gets a little bit sticky, and here’s what I’m talking about.

If you or I are driving down the street, and we get distracted and we have happened to kill somebody in a car accident, we’re responsible to the families of that dead person for what we’ve done wrong, and the definition by statute of who can bring that claim for the dead person includes a spouse or includes the children of the deceased. That makes sense, right? The family can bring the claim, but if a doctor commits malpractice, even if they admitted they committed it… I mean we don’t have to talk about was it malpractice or was it not malpractice. What if they admitted malpractice and killed somebody?

In the state of Florida, we have a statute that says only a surviving spouse and only a minor child, defined as under (age) 25, can bring the claim. So if a doctor kills a patient, let’s say they’re seventy years old and they’re a widower or widow, they don’t have children under 25, right? They got a whole family… they can have 10 kids… 26, 27, 28…but they lived longer than their spouse. Their spouse predeceased them. They’re a widow or widower.

The doctor can say “wow, gee, I’m sorry I killed your loved one”, but you can’t bring a claim in Florida. It’s a special law buried in Chapter 768. It says in a wrongful death action, if this one’s a car accident, there’s a claim; if it’s medical malpractice, no claim.

Now what’s really unfortunate about that is that’s a law that was written, passed by legislators over in Tallahassee whose campaigns received huge contributions from doctors in the Florida Medical Association, but what’s really sad is that the courts upheld that law with this argument. They said well you know if we give the doctors a break on this statute then the overall price of health care will come down. It’ll be cheaper, because they won’t be picking up the tab for the people that they kill.

What? Does anybody watching really think that the cost of healthcare has been affected, in other words its less now, because the doctors aren’t having to have their insurance companies pay the families of the people that they killed? That’s completely illogical.

The equal protection clause in Florida, and the equal protection clause in our federal Constitution, says listen…all citizens should be the same, right? …and if your family member gets killed by a drunk driver or gets killed by drunk doctor, your claim should be the same; not different, the same….and the only argument for it being different is the doctors’ lobbies being able to say “hey, wait. We’re special. We’re not responsible under those circumstances for killing people”.

It’s something to think about. It’s something you won’t think about, and hopefully, I pray you never have to think about it, because I hope you don’t lose a loved one under those circumstances, but for the families that I meet that have lost a loved one who’s a senior citizen, who doesn’t have a minor child, and who doesn’t have a surviving spouse but still has a considerable family of loved ones, it’s very difficult for me to say to that family that that law makes sense.

It’s the free kill statute in Florida, and it’s the law. We can do something about that if enough people care. The problem is when you wake up in the morning, you don’t predict that you’re going to be the victim of medical malpractice, and the victims are such a small percentage.

Let me say this…health care in this state, in this city and in this country is outstanding. Its outstanding. They’re working miracles right down the street, right now, in the new queue at Sacred Heart Hospital for pediatric kids. It’s fantastic what they’re able to do, but they make mistakes. And when they make mistakes, they should be responsible for those mistakes.

That’s all I’m saying. Tune in next week, and I’ll say more. I’m Marcus Michles here at Michles & Booth. On behalf of the firm, you go see us at michlesbooth.com. I think it’s /blog, and you can take a look at what I had to say before, and if you call, email, text us, tweet us and we’ll respond. Thanks.


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