Florida law stops parents from suing doctor for malpractice in sedation death of their son

Investigations

Tommy Myers’ parents are relying on the state to hold his dentist accountable for mistakes that led to his death, because according to Florida law, they can’t.

Florida’s wrongful death law prevents Tommy’s parents from suing Dr. Veronica Thompson, who according to a Department of Health administrative complaint, administered too much sedation to Tommy, too quickly.

The 39-year-old special needs patient stopped breathing in Dr. Thompson’s dentist chair in September 2014. He died two days later when life support was removed.

Mistakes cited by the Board of Dentistry prompted it to vote to revoke Dr. Thompson’s license.

“It just wasn’t fair, because we entrusted his health to her,” Tommy’s mother Maureen said.

In addition to mistake with the sedation, the state also found Dr. Thompson failed to follow emergency protocol when Tommy stopped breathing.

“They were just careless, the whole office was just careless,” Tommy’s father Gary added.

Unless the Florida Department of Health holds Dr. Thompson accountable, Tommy’s parents are prohibited from suing her for malpractice.

Florida statute 768.21 states “damages shall not be recoverable by parents of an adult child with respect to claims for medical negligence.”

“It doesn’t matter how injured someone is, or how they got injured, or how egregious the injury was to them. It doesn’t matter, the courts will dismiss the claim, unless you leave a spouse or a child under the age of 25,” attorney Anthony Martino pointed out.

Martino calls the wrongful death law grossly unfair.

“You know that in Florida, if you’re hit by a car, or you’re in a nursing home, or you slip and fall, any claim of negligence in Florida which causes a death, your family has rights under the wrongful death statute, except for malpractice,” Martino explained.

The Board of Dentistry voted to revoke Dr. Thompson’s license.  

Unless Dr. Thompson agrees to give up her license, the issue of revocation would likely be decided by an administrative law judge.

The Department of Health hopes to avoid litigation because one attorney calls it “risky and expensive.” 

DOH is trying to negotiate a settlement with Dr. Thompson that would include a fine, her taking some classes and possible a suspension.

“This was never about money,” Maureen said.  

“This was never about anything but having her license taken away so that she could not perform or do any harm to another individual or to another family.”

According to attorney Martino, Florida’s wrongful death law presents a roadblock to justice for Tommy’s parents.

If you know of something that should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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