A bill that would make it harder to seek punitive damages for willful and extreme patient abuse at a Florida nursing home is making its way through the state legislature.
In a 7-2 vote, SB 1384 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee led by GOP on April 1.
SB 1384 adds additional hurdles for individuals and families who wish to sue nursing homes and seek punitive damages for extreme misconduct.
The current law, stated Jacksonville.com, obliges plaintiffs to offer evidence for a pre-trial hearing, but not require them beforehand to prove it’s admissible, called a “proffer.” The bill (SB 1384) would require that a judge must first grant permission before a person is able to seek punitive damages. It would also necessitate a more detailed hearing in order to examine evidence used.
Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who sponsored the bill, states that where a proffer might be based on what is eventually concluded to be inadmissible evidence or hearsay—going in before a judge after this bill and stating that you have this document is not considered hearsay.
Backers of SB 1384 argue – despite statistical evidence to the contrary – that the measure will cut down on so-called frivolous lawsuits against nursing homes for patient abuse and neglect.
Critics oppose the bill as a giveaway to the big corporations – many of them located outside of Florida – that own nursing homes.
A 2001 change required 50 percent of punitive damages awarded in nursing home-related lawsuits to go into a state trust fund. The fund was created to discourage people from asking for punitive damages. Since it was created, the trust fund has not received a single dollar of punitive damages.