Family says proposed Florida legislation that would cap some medical malpractice awards a ‘slap in the face’

Florida lawmakers are considering a cap on the awards for things like pain, suffering, and loss of companionship when someone is killed or seriously hurt by medical malpractice.

The proposed legislation would cap those types of damages at $500,000.

The proposal is part of a compromise that would lift restrictions on other types of malpractice cases.

Bobby Bowers’ says his adult daughter was a dependable mom of two looking to go back to work as a nursing assistant until a few years ago when medical negligence left her permanently brain-damaged and bedridden.

“She was taking the steps that she felt that she needed to do to move on and continue to succeed in life. And then, bam, it’s all taken out from under her,” Bowers said.

Bowers shared his family’s story on the condition that News4JAX didn’t name his daughter or divulge details of her injury for reasons of legal confidentiality.

Under a bill sponsored by local Florida State Sen. Clay Yarborough, damages for things like emotional suffering suffered by families like Bowers’ would be capped at $500,000.

Bowers called it a “slap in the face.”

“They have no idea how much you lost by this. They don’t see it in and out every day,” Bowers said.

Bowers said no amount of money can replace what’s been taken from his daughter, but it can provide accountability.

The proposal is part of a larger bill that would overturn prohibitions on adult children and parents of adult children from recovering certain damages in medical negligence suits.

Advocates have been arguing for its repeal, but one advocate said they don’t support the proposed bill that would do just that because she thinks the $500,000 cap is wrong.

Sen. Yarborough said not having a cap may result in higher insurance premiums.

“To offset this impact and also to afford all of our constituents the opportunity to benefit from lower healthcare costs, I am also proposing that we add caps on noneconomic damages if a claim related to wrongful death stemming from medical negligence or personal injury,” Yarborough said.

The president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association echoed that.

“We’ve certainly been working very closely with the legislature. And while we have had a concern about opening up and broadening the number of individuals who can sue, we are interested in supporting a compromise that would include putting financial caps back in place for non-economic damages, typically what we think about pain and suffering,” CEO Mary Mayhew said.

Bowers believes juries should decide what a family’s pain and suffering is worth when their loved one is hurt or killed due to medical negligence, not state lawmakers.

“That’s what justice is, is the ability and the chance to have your case heard and decided,” Bowers said.

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