Families Oppose Lawsuit Caps; Malpractice Cases Face Limits in Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, Clay County Line staff writer

Melinda Hause of Orange Park said she is disgusted because she thinks the media continues to portray health care workers as the victims of the current medical crisis in Florida.

Doctors are crying foul about astronomical premiums for medical malpractice insurance. They blame greedy lawyers, excessive litigation and large jury awards to plaintiffs. They are pushing for a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages -- pain and suffering.

Floridians for Patient Protection in Tallahassee say that's bunk. It is negligent doctors and nurses, a dangerously lenient Board of Medicine and the insurance industry that are to blame, said Hause, who is a board member of the group.

Hause said the cap will make it hard for a family to get an attorney. Plus, she said, it discriminates against children, stay-at-home parents and senior citizens who can't sue for economic damages because there's no lost wages.

Hause said the real victims of the crisis are people like her younger sister, 41-year-old Brenda Saffer of Arlington, who died in December 2001 in a North Florida hospital after routine surgery due to medical errors.

"The talk of caps sickens me. How dare they try to put a price on my sister's life. My sister can't speak now," she said and described her sister as a vibrant woman who celebrated life each day. "I've been robbed. My family has been robbed."

Hause said she was at her sister's bedside after she underwent surgery to remove scar tissue that seemed to be causing her stomach pains. She was talking and laughing and trying to find the home and garden channel on the television, Hause said. The next morning Hause awoke in the chair beside her sister and found her dead in her hospital bed.

Fabiola Armitage of Fruit Cove said she's pained by the doctors' campaign and she's against caps. …