Jeanette Gonzalez still tears up when she talks about her son. “He was a super star. He was a great person. He was very well loved,” she said. Javier Roldan was a fighter from the start. After he was born with spina bifida, he conquered every new challenge that he encountered and never lived like you would expect a person with a disability. As a kid, Roldan served as a child ambassador for the March of Dimes organization. He made an impact on everyone he met and even got a chance to be featured in the halftime show at Super Bowl 25.
In his spare time, Roldan actually hung out with athletes like Reggie Jackson and Derek Jeter. He called music legends like Slash and Carlos Santana his friends. Even with the physical challenges that he faced, Roldan managed to live independently. But then in early 2016, Javier broke his leg. He spent some time in the hospital and during the difficult recovery, his health took a downhill turn.
“My son was in critical condition. He was having seizures. And I tried to explain to them there was something very wrong,” Gonzales remembers. Things continued to get worse and Javier died on February 11. His mother blames the doctors and the hospital for her son’s death and she believes his care wasn’t properly managed. She believes it was negligence and someone should have to answer for the mistakes that were made while treating her son.
Unfortunately, Florida law prevents medical malpractice lawsuits from those who are unmarried or have no children. This means that Gonzales is stuck with no way to legally pursue the healthcare providers who she believes robbed her child of his life. She turned to attorney Nicolette Nicoletti for help to petition lawmakers to change the current legislation to make allowances for cases like her son’s.
Nicoletti said he sees the devastating impact of this law on a regular basis. “You can pass away due to medical negligence and there is no recovery for your family members. Our goal is to make the public aware of the laws. I have medical malpractice claims come in every day that I am forced to turn away because of this law.”
Gonzales has repeatedly said that she isn’t concerned with getting money from a lawsuit. Instead, she just wants to prevent someone else from going through this same type of grief. “I just want justification that somebody gets in trouble. My son was so badly neglected, just left there,” she said.
For now, Javier’s mother is pursuing all the legal avenues that are available, starting with a formal complaint to the Agency for Health Care Administration. She vowed to devote her remaining years to fighting for changes in his son’s honor.
Christopher Ligori, a Tampa personal injury attorney, said that Gonzales is not alone in this struggle. “Attorneys see situations like this all the time, where families have no legal route to seek justice for medical mistakes because of a simple law. It’s time for a change.”