Advocates of medical mapractice tort reform usually present it as a "cure" for an out of control civil justice system. However, a few families in Florida are now finding how unjust tort reform really can be to victims of medical malpractice.
Two families in particular are learning about the inequities that tort reform promotes. The controversy centers around Florida’s wrongful death act. As described by local news authorities:
Florida’s Wrongful Death Law passed back in 1990. It gives doctors, nurses, medical staff and hospitals special protection. They cannot be sued for medical negligence if the adult patient has no kids under the age of 25 and no spouse.
Essentially, if a loved one is killed by the negligence of a health care professional, the family of a 26 year old single person has no recourse for seeking justice.
When Troy Bostick, a 26 year old single male died last year, his family sought civil justice for what they believed was medical malpractice. However, they found that tort reform laws had totally precluded any of them from filing suit. "The most you can get is what I got, which is, ‘Mrs. Bostick, we’re sorry for your loss.’ That’s what I got,” Troy’s mother said. Its no surprise that this is not particularly satisfying.
Likewise, Travis Osborn had a similar experience involving the death of his 50 year old deceased, and single, father Mike.
Mike Osborne went in for minor surgery to remove a polyp from his nose. State records show the doctor’s probe went too far and damaged his brain. Because he was divorced when he died and his Travis was over 25 years old, nobody could sue for medical malpractice.
Both families of Troy Bostick and Mike Osborne were surprised by the implications of state tort reform laws, as were many of their friends.
While some Florida legislators are taking time to amend the law, Florida’s Wrongful Death statute is an example of both the errors of tort reform, and the creative marketing of big business. Most people – as the Osborns and Bosticks have found – do not agree with the statute, but most would also probably not recognize this as "tort reform." This is exactly the type of legislation pushed by big business and, for example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who recently labeled Florida as the 41st "most fair" state for tort litigation. That is to say, despite the patently unfair Wrongful Death Act which singles out medical malpractice victims, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks Florida as one of the states that needs the most additional reform.