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    Senators cold to cap on nursing home suits

    The chamber's president said he has not heard support for limiting damage awards.

    ©Associated Press
    March 8, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- Senate President Jim King said his chamber is unlikely to support a measure that calls for capping pain-and-suffering damages in lawsuits arising from abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

    "Any kind of cap is meeting extreme hostility," the Jacksonville Republican said during a news conference in his Capitol board room. "The senators are not really happy about considering that as an alternative. I'm not going to force anybody's hand on these issues that are controversial."

    King said he supports the proposal.

    Under a system recommended by a legislative study panel, if both sides in a nursing home lawsuit agree to binding arbitration and the defendant admits wrongdoing, the most the plaintiff could win would be $250,000.

    If the nursing home offers to go to arbitration but the plaintiff refuses, then pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages would be limited to $350,000.

    The plan is expected to surface as an amendment to a bill (SB 1120) sponsored by Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, that will be heard Tuesday in the Senate Health, Aging and Long-Term Care Committee.

    Gov. Jeb Bush supports capping awards in nursing home suits when arbitration is offered, and recently sent a letter urging the committee to propose the limits.

    Meanwhile, proponents are going on the air in several of the state's television markets with a 30-second spot that shows doctors fleeing nursing homes because of skyrocketing insurance costs. The ad is being paid for by the Florida Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care.

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