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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Closing a medical malpractice loophole unique to Florida has come closer than ever in recent years, but for the ones still feeling the pain of loss, the fight is year-round and far from over.
Jeraldine Creighton, 76, of Tampa, was a family’s first grandparent who died from heart attack complications four years ago. Her son Travis is now trying to do something for her, in her memory.
“It’s about accountability,” Creighton said. “The law allows negligence. It’s legal negligence.”
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A recent Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meeting was the latest stop for Creighton, who again testified to get rid of Florida malpractice lawsuit restrictions.
After his mom died, he said he went to “at least 20” attorneys looking for representation to file a malpractice lawsuit.
“No. Absolutely not.” Creighton said that when asked if he knew about Florida’s malpractice loophole before his mom died. “I used to be sad. Now, I’m angry. Sad because you lose your loved one. Angry because I can’t do a thing about it.”
The loophole and the law are confusing.
Anyone 25 or older, cannot sue for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering in malpractice cases involving unmarried parents. Parents cannot sue in similar cases if their children are 25 or older, unmarried and have no children.
The quirk was especially painful for Sabrina Davis. Her father Keith Davis died from an undiagnosed blood clot three days after sending her a video from his hospital bed.
“Like I said, [my leg] still won’t point up,” Davis said in the video to his daughter. “It still hurts really bad.”
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The Department of Health found there was probable cause Davis’s Doctor, Rathinam Krishnamoorthy, allegedly committed malpractice.
Krishnamoorthy never admitted guilt but in a settlement with the state agreed to 13 hours of Continuing Medical Education, an Independent Risk Manager to review his practice, a $7,500 fine and up to $4,200 in costs.
Krishnamoorthy has not responded to multiple requests for comment from 8 On Your Side.
The arguments made by Creighton, Davis and others are getting noticed.
“Sabrina’s case moved me,” Rep. Johanna Lopez said. “Then, after I hear her, I find out there are so many others.”
Lopez sponsored a bill to eliminate the loophole but it stalled in the 2023 session.
During the previous two sessions, the bill overwhelmingly passed the house, but never got out of the Senate Judiciary committee chaired last year by Zephryhills Sen. Danny Burgess.
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Before the 2022 session, Burgess said he thought it was possible to eliminate the malpractice restrictions with the right law but he indicated past proposals had issues.
“[The 2021 proposed law] would have absolutely opened up a potential pandora’s box to litigation,” Burgess said.
Lopez said she was not sure why the changes did not move forward this year, but she did not blame insurance lobbyists concerned about the potential impact on costs for doctors.
“Based on the conversations that I had with lobbyists we did not see any people opposing this bill,” Lopez said. “It’s just to make sure that everybody is accountable and doing the right thing with everybody. This is about rights. This is not about money.”
The legislation is expected to come up again next session in the house where it passed in 2022 by a seven to one margin only to die in the Senate.