In a win for consumers, Florida Legislature opts not to change standards for seeking punitive damages against nursing homes.
While the Florida Legislature has been leaning toward big insurance companies and other large corporations in recent years, the people did garner a win worth mentioning in this year’s session when the Legislature chose not to pass a bill that would have made it significantly tougher to hold a nursing home financially accountable.
The nursing home lobby pushed for the changes, which would have affected the amount of evidence needed before a case moved forward, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. The law now requires plaintiffs to make a “reasonable showing” of evidence that supports the case in order for the judge to rule it can move forward. That standard was in the crosshairs of nursing homes. The proposed law would have changed that standard to “clear and convincing evidence” to move forward if the plaintiff is seeking punitive damages in the case.
Punitive damages are designed to punish defendants for their conduct and result in payments to the plaintiff. These damages are some of the most effective in getting nursing homes or other businesses to actually change their dangerous behaviors and practices in many Tampa Bay Personal Injury Cases. Nursing home abuse orneglect cases are brought when the facility injures or harms someone under its care, either intentionally or through its own negligence. These Tampa Bay Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases are critical, because they hold nursing homes accountable.
By increasing the standard the Legislature would have essentially required a trial before the trial, forcing the plaintiffs to essentially prove their entire case twice. Essentially, this measure could have taken many cases out of a jury’s hands. A jury in many cases makes decisions differently than a judge – that’s the hallmark of our justice system.
There’s another important consequence that would have come with the new law – one that may not seem obvious, but one our Tampa Bay Personal Injury Attorneys would bet the nursing home lobby was fully aware of. The new standard would have forced Plaintiff’s to put more of their strategy on the record, essentially showing all of their cards before the trial even started. That gives the defense team more information about the strength of the potential case, which is big for the defense when it comes to negotiating a settlement. The majority of civil cases do not end up in trial, so most come down to some sort of negotiated settlement. This proposal was just one more way of tipping the scales in negotiations to the side of the defense.
Ultimately, the bill never came for a final vote in the Legislature, so the threat is gone for at least one more year. But our St. Petersburg nursing home abuse attorneys would not be surprised at all to see it back on the agenda next legislative session.