Hospital to pay $15M for negligence in claims bill

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, Fla., was ordered to pay $15 million over its alleged negligence to patient Aaron Edwards, who was born with cerebral palsy 14 years ago. In a 32-4 Senate vote yesterday, lawmakers ordered the private hospital chain to pay Aaron $15 million, including a $10 million in a lump sum and $1 million per year for five years, the Herald Tribune reported. The legislation (HB 965) is now on its way to Gov. Rick Scott.

Aaron, who now lives in Colorado, is unable to walk, talk or control his limbs, according to The Associated Press. In 2007, a jury found that Lee Memorial was negligent in Aaron's injuries during birth, awarding the family nearly $31 million, according to the Herald Tribune. However, Florida's sovereign-immunity laws allowed Lee Memorial to escape from having to pay.

Colorado is picking up the medical expenses, senators argued.

"For a hospital to pawn off their responsibilities on another state to me is not the way things should be done," Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) said in the AP article.

Lee Memorial does not have insurance to cover the damages, it says, but the claims bill would force Lee Memorial to pay up.

Lee Memorial's attorney, Mac Stipanovich, insists the injuries are not the hospital's fault and that healthcare in Florida would suffer because of the bill, ABC 7 WZVN-HD reported.

The hospital, which is "extremely disappointed" with the decision, issued a statement: "Lee Memorial does not have cash set aside to pay this claim. This is an extremely serious issue for our hospital system and our hospital board of directors will be evaluating options to mitigate the negative impact on services and programs that benefit all the citizens of southwest Florida."

For more information:
- read the Herald Tribune article
- here's the AP article
- watch the ABC 7 WZVN-HD report

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