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When Must a Plaintiff Elect Remedies in a Nursing Home Suit Under Florida Statute 400.023(1)?

Good question, as the Second DCA provided nominal guidance in Estate of Trollinger v. Mariner Health Care, Inc. (MHC) d/b/a East Bay Nursing Center et al. While the Panel (Fulmer, Kelly and Altenbernd) affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint, a clear rule fails to emerge.

During the course of tort reform to Chapter 400, the Nursing Home Resident’s Rights Act, section 400.023(1) was inserted which required the plaintiff to elect either survival damages or wrongful death damages.  As the Panel properly lamented, the statute fails to say when the election shall occur.  In this case, the trial court dismissed the action at the pleading stage and the plaintiff was called upon to amend the complaint, choosing their damages.  Rather than doing so, they appealed.

The Panel held that this was not an issue for certiorari relief since the plaintiff could not demonstate irreparable harm if the case proceeded.

In a concurring opinion twice as long as the main opinion, Judge Altenbernd wrote that the statute requires an election of damages, not an election of causes of action, and suggested there was little reason that the election needed to be made prior to the jury returning a verdict on both claims.  Nonetheless, the Judge acknowledged that election of remedies was a complex theory, leaving the door open to varying arguments and analysis which was not provided in the opinion.

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