Florida Wrongful Death Cases Are Derivative of the Deceased’s Claim

When someone is killed due to the negligence of another person or entity, the Florida wrongful death statute allows for the surviving loved ones of the deceased to pursue a claim for compensation against the at-fault parties. Under Florida Statutes section 768.18, these claims are generally brought for the benefit of the spouse, parent, or child of the deceased, but can be brought on behalf of other family members in certain situations.

One issue that frequently comes up in wrongful death cases is whether the survivors’ claim against the at-fault party is derivative of their deceased loved one’s claim. This is a fairly complex topic, and courts across the country have wrestled with this question for years, often coming to different results. Indeed, in a recent federal appellate opinion, the court certified a question to state supreme court, asking that court to answer whether wrongful death claims are derivative.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s mother was taken by ambulance to the defendant nursing home. Before she was admitted, the plaintiff signed a pre-admission form, containing, among other things, an agreement to arbitrate all claims. At the time, the plaintiff’s mother had executed a power of attorney document in favor of the plaintiff. Later, the plaintiff’s mother died while in the care of the defendant nursing home, and the plaintiff filed a wrongful death case against the facility.

The nursing home argued that the plaintiff was bound by the arbitration agreement that she signed on behalf of her mother. The nursing home filed a claim in federal court, under the Federal Arbitration Act, seeking to compel arbitration. The court determined that whether the plaintiff was bound by the arbitration agreement turned on the state’s interpretation of the wrongful death statute. Specifically, whether wrongful death cases were derivative of the deceased’s underlying claim against a defendant.

The Law in Florida

In a 2013 case, the Florida Supreme Court answered a similar question posed by a federal court, explaining that “the nature of a wrongful death cause of action in Florida is derivative” insofar as it pertains to arbitration agreements signed by a party who has the legal authority to do so. However, a subsequent decision held that non-signatory beneficiaries are not necessarily bound by an arbitration clause. Thus, as is often the case, the answer will depend heavily on the specific facts of the case.

Are You Considering a Florida Wrongful Death Case?

If you recently lost a loved one in a Florida nursing home due to the negligent or abusive behaviors of nursing home staff, contact the dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims and their families pursue all types of injury claims, including Florida wrongful death lawsuits. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Premises Liability Based on a Third-Party’s Criminal Activity, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 22, 2019.

The Concept of Personal Jurisdiction in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 7, 2019.

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