On April 30, 2021, two legislative bills which would have drastically altered Florida’s Wrongful Death Act (§§ 768.16 – 768.26, Florida Statutes) failed to pass the State Senate.  The bills–House Bill 651 and Senate Bill 1112, respectively–were both aimed at changing Florida’s Wrongful Death Act to allow parents to recover non-economic damages for mental pain and suffering from health care providers in the event of the deaths of their adult children as a result of medical malpractice.

As it stands, section 768.21(8) of Florida’s Wrongful Death Act prohibits parents of adult children from seeking non-economic damages in the event that their adult child dies as a result of medical malpractice, and further provides that adult children may not seek non-economic damages for such claims on behalf of deceased parents.   HB 651 and SB 1112 were proposed to remove the first immunity for parents of adult children.

Opponents of HB 651 argued that if these prohibitions were removed, medical malpractice insurance rates for physicians and other health care providers would continue to increase in Florida, a state which already has the third-highest insurance rates of the largest ten markets in the nation according to the Office of Insurance Regulation.  Opposition to HB 651 was presented by insurance and medical entities, as well as directors of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Overall, HB 651 was successful in garnering bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. HB 651 was unanimously found favorable by both the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee before it was ultimately immediately certified by the House in a 99-16 vote.  However, HB 651 struggled to gain support and died in the Senate, where its companion measure, SB 1112, was introduced, but ultimately never considered.

The overwhelming passage of HB 651 in the House indicates a fair amount of political traction for limiting at least one of the current immunities, so similar measures can be expected in future legislative sessions and should be monitored.

Please click here to view the language, legislative history, and other information regarding House Bill 651.

Please click here to view the language, legislative history, and other information regarding Senate Bill 1112.