I have been a practicing attorney specializing in personal injury and medical malpractice in Florida for over twenty years. Rarely does anything in the realm of my job shock me anymore. I have seen doctors lie, hospitals destroy records and convenience stores conveniently destroy the surveillance video of a client’s assault.
When our Miami medical malpractice law firm recently filed a law suit against the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”) on behalf of a prisoner who we allege received negligent medical care while incarcerated, I learned of Florida’s Statutes §960.297 and §960.293 for the very first time. According to the statute, the State of Florida or a local subdivision can file a civil law suit or in our client’s case, a counterclaim to a law suit against the State, to recover money for the cost of incarceration and “other correctional costs” of $50.00 a day based upon the length of the sentence imposed by the court. If convicted of a capital or life felony the amount the State is entitled to $250,000. The State has up to 5 years after the date of release to sue for reimbursement. Read the counterclaim filed against our client by the FDOC here: Fla DOC counterclaim for restitution-9238.pdf
What does this mean in terms of prisoners who are injured due to the State’s neglect? It means that the Department of Corrections can hurt a prisoner by negligently causing an injury or for civil rights abuses and can then turn around and sue the injured prisoner for repayment of the cost of keeping him imprisoned. To my knowledge this type of law does not exist in any other context. This insane law is the equivalent of allowing doctors or hospitals to sue patients who they injure or kill for the cost of the medical treatment, or a manufacturer of a dangerous medical device, like a De Puy Hip, to sue a patient for the cost of the implant.
I believe that if a judge or jury finds that the acts of the Florida Department of Corrections caused or contributed to the cause of the injury that is the subject matter of a law suit, the FDOC should be barred from bringing suit for repayment of the cost of incarceration. Furthermore, the 5 year statute of limitations for collecting repayment for incarceration should be limited to the same period of time that a prisoner would have to initiate a law suit against the FDOC. Furthermore, I believe that this law should not be enforced against any prisoner when the prison is privately run.
It seems to me that a prisoner, once released, has fulfilled his obligation to society. If the prisoner works while in prison, providing labor on farms, performing road repairs, serving meals or participating in sanitation processes, that labor should be offset by any amount owed for reimbursement. As a Miami Beach hotel injury attorney, I believe that suing prisoners who have been injured at the hands of the Florida Department of Corrections for reimbursement of the cost of incarceration violates the Eighth Amendment. Requiring a newly released prisoner, who was injured in prison and trying to obtain employment and be reunited with his/her family, to defend a law suit to collect money just does not seem like the best way to give someone a fresh start.
Feel free to email Florida’s Governor Rick Scott and let him know how you feel about this law.