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Florida’s Free Kill Law


Imagine that you’re living with your partner—someone you’ve loved for over 20 years. For whatever reason, the two of you were never married and have no children. One day, your partner suffers a medical problem and is rushed to the hospital. There, he or she undergoes surgery. But during that surgery, something terrible happens. They die on the operating table or due to complications a few hours or days later. You suspect that medical malpractice is to blame for their death. You attempt to file a wrongful death lawsuit under the theory of medical malpractice. But a little-known Florida statute prevents you from ever initiating the lawsuit. What happened?

Florida Statute 768.21

Florida’s wrongful death statute defines who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased loved one. Among those are spouses, parents of minor children, and children of parents so long as they are under the age of 26. In cases where one individual is a dependent of the deceased, they may claim financial damages related to the loss of care. But what about the long-time partner of a person who had no children?

According to the statute, there is no one who can be awarded damages for their loss. The estate of the deceased can sue to recover damages related to burial expenses, medical expenses, and other out-of-pocket losses or loss of income that would have been earned had the individual remained alive, but no one case recover damages for their own personal emotional distress, grief, and heartache related to their loved one’s death.


Understanding Florida’s Wrongful Death Statute

The wrongful death statute is heavily influenced by medical malpractice tort reforms that took place in the late 80s and early 90s. Florida legislators felt that if they could protect doctors they could encourage doctors to come to Florida. In addition, they believed they could lower the cost of health care by reducing malpractice insurance premiums. As it turned out, neither of these ended up happening. Instead, Florida has become a beacon for bad doctors who have had their licenses stripped in other states and the cost of health care has remained steady. Furthermore, much of the waste in the system is caused by doctors who illegally bill patients or make them undergo procedures or tests that they don’t need. In other words, insurance fraud.

Florida Man Loses Long-term Partner

One of the casualties of Florida’s “free kill” law as it has become derisively known is Kevin Speck of Naples who lost the love of his life to what he claims is medical malpractice. According to his attorney, his long-term partner, Jackie Tyrrell died when her doctor nicked her spleen. Kevin, who had no children with Jackie, was prevented from recovering damages for his emotional grief and loss of companionship because he and Jackie were not technically married. Now, he hopes that is situation will draw attention to this unfair law.

Talk to a Florida Wrongful Death Attorney

If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence, give the Jacksonville wrongful death attorneys at Gillette Law a call. We will fight tenaciously for your recovery.




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