Before a doctor is able to perform any kind of non-emergency medical treatment, she must first obtain the patient’s consent. However, since the medical field can be so complex and the stakes so high, courts have held that physicians must do more than simply have a patient check a box indicating consent. Generally speaking, a doctor must fully inform the patient of the risks involved with the procedure in order to obtain informed consent. In Florida medical malpractice cases, if a doctor fails to obtain informed consent, and the patient suffers an injury as a result, the doctor may be liable under a theory of medical battery.

Surgical ErrorFlorida law imposes several requirements that a plaintiff must overcome before establishing liability. For example, even if the doctor failed to obtain informed consent, if the medical procedure was one that a reasonable patient would have consented to undergo, the doctor may not be liable. A recent case from nearby Oklahoma presented an interesting issue for the court to consider:  whether the patient must be informed of who will be assisting during the surgery.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a patient of the defendant doctor. During the course of the plaintiff’s treatment, the defendant recommended that the plaintiff undergo a total laparoscopic hysterectomy. The plaintiff agreed and scheduled the surgery.

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Anyone who has been injured in a South Florida car accident knows how difficult it can be dealing with insurance companies. In many cases, insurance companies will seek out ways to settle claims for as little as possible or deny claims outright. Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving a passenger’s claim against the driver’s uninsured motorist protection policy. The court concluded that the insurance company improperly denied coverage because the woman was “occupying” the vehicle at the time of the accident, and her claim should have been approved.

Rear-EndedThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the passenger in a friend’s car. The two were on their way to the grocery store and had pulled into the parking lot when they began talking in the car. As they were talking, the plaintiff heard a loud bang and turned her head to see that two cars had collided on an adjacent road.

The plaintiff exited her friend’s vehicle and approached the scene of the accident. She walked around the back of one of the vehicles involved in the accident to get its license plate number. As she was looking down at the license plate, another vehicle crashed into one of the cars involved in the initial accident. The plaintiff was struck by one of the cars and was injured as a result.

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Last month, one state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that required the court to determine if the lower court was proper in granting the defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the plaintiff presented evidence that gave rise to a factual issue regarding the defendant’s potential negligence, the case should have been presented to a jury, rather than being decided by the trial judge.

Slipping HazardThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a tenant in an apartment complex that was owned and operated by the defendant. One winter day, the plaintiff was planning on going to the hardware store with a family member. As he exited his apartment and approached his truck, he slipped on a patch of black ice, falling on his shoulder. The fall resulted in a torn rotator cuff that required surgery to repair.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant, claiming that the defendant was negligent in maintaining the common areas of the apartment complex. The plaintiff testified that prior to the day of his accident, the defendant had cleared snow from the complex parking lot to an area that was slightly above the level of the parking lot. He explained that the snow melted during the day, resulting in water running onto the parking lot surface that later re-froze as the temperature dropped overnight.

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When someone is injured due to a negligently designed or defectively manufactured product, they may be able to pursue compensation for their injuries from several parties, including the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer. These product liability lawsuits often are brought under a theory of strict liability, which does not require a plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent. However, it may benefit a plaintiff to establish that a defendant did know about the alleged defect because this may increase the damages that they are entitled to obtain.

Disc BrakesOne way that product liability plaintiffs can establish a defendant’s knowledge of an alleged defect is through “other similar incident” (OSI) evidence. OSI evidence, often presented through an expert witness, tells of other incidents in which the same product caused an injury or was defective in a manner which is similar to that which the plaintiff alleges. A recent case issued by a federal appellate court discusses OSI evidence and when it may be appropriate.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were stopped at a red light at the end of a highway off-ramp when a 1996 Toyota Camry traveling at 75 miles per hour rear-ended them. At the time, the driver explained that he tried to brake, but the car instead began to accelerate. It was not until several years later that Toyota announced a recall of 1996 Toyota Camrys, based on several other reports that the vehicles were randomly accelerating and could not be stopped by applying the brakes.

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Under Florida’s dangerous-instrumentality doctrine, a vehicle owner who entrusts his or her vehicle to another person who negligently causes an accident can be held liable for any injuries. Essentially, this doctrine holds the owners of dangerous instrumentalities – including motor vehicles – liable when they loan the vehicle to another person who causes an accident. Importantly, there does not need to be any showing that the vehicle owner was negligent in loaning the vehicle to the at-fault driver.

Semi-TruckFlorida law limits an owner’s liability under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine to $100,000. A recent case in front of a Florida appellate court illustrates how a non-negligent owner can be held liable for injuries, up to the statutory maximum, under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a woman who was killed when she was rear-ended by a truck that was driven by one defendant and owned by another defendant. Both of the defendants were present in the truck at the time of the accident. The owner of the truck had previously been driving but asked his passenger to take over control of the truck while he took a nap in the back.

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Earlier this year, an appellate court in Iowa issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case discussing the interesting topic of whether a plaintiff should be permitted to bring a medical malpractice case seeking compensation for the wrongful birth of a child. Ultimately, after surveying the laws of other states and taking into account the evolution of medical care, the court concluded that the plaintiff couple should be permitted to bring the lawsuit.

Pregnant WomanThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were expecting a baby boy. The defendants were several doctors who had provided the plaintiffs with pre-natal medical care throughout the pregnancy. A few months into the plaintiff-wife’s pregnancy, an ultrasound was performed with one of the defendant doctors reviewing the results.

The ultrasound indicated that the couple’s unborn son had a small head. Specifically, the circumference of the baby’s head was within the third-to-sixth percentile. However, that was never made known to the plaintiffs, and no further tests were performed.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a slip-and-fall case that presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. The case involved somewhat bare allegations made by the plaintiff that were unsupported by any other evidence. As a result, the court determined that the doctrine did not apply and that the lower court was proper not to infer that the defendant was negligent.

StaircaseThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell through a set of wooden stairs at the home where she was living with the defendant. At the time, the defendant was the sole owner of the home. Several years after her fall, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, seeking compensation for the injuries she sustained in the fall.

The plaintiff claimed that the stairs were rotted due to an insect infestation and that the defendant should have been aware of the problem and warned her of the potential danger. However, since the plaintiff had no evidence that the defendant knew of the stairs’ condition, she asked the court to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to infer that the defendant was negligent.

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Last year, a Florida motorist was killed in a traffic accident when the Tesla car he was operating crashed into the side of a semi-truck. Evidently, the Tesla was traveling at highway speeds when a semi-truck pulled in front of the car. At the time, the Tesla was in auto-pilot mode and did not stop in time to avoid a collision with the side of the truck.

Semi-TruckSince this fatal accident was the first involving a vehicle with the new auto-pilot technology, it raised many practical and legal questions. For example, which parties should be responsible when a self-driving car is involved in a serious accident?

In a recently released report by the National Transportation Safety Bureau, it was revealed that the driver of the Tesla was given numerous warnings to retake control of the vehicle prior to the fatal collision. According to an article detailing the report’s findings, the driver was heavily relying on the vehicle’s auto-pilot technology. In fact, of the 41 minutes leading up to the accident, the vehicle was in auto-pilot mode for over 37 minutes. Of those 37 minutes, the driver’s hands were only on the wheel for about 30 seconds. The report also explained that the vehicle’s warning system recommended that the driver place his hands back on the wheel seven times in the moments leading up to the accident.

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In many South Florida auto accident cases, there are actually several parties who can potentially be held responsible for a victim’s injuries. For example, if an employee causes an accident while on the job, both the employee as well as the employer can often be named in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit. The legal doctrine that allows this type of claim against a third party is called vicarious liability.

MotorcycleAs a general rule, under the theory of vicarious liability, when a driver causes an accident while using another person’s car, both the driver as well as the vehicle’s owner may be held liable to the accident victim for any injuries. This general rule stands true to the extent that the person driving the car had permission to use the vehicle, and their use of the vehicle did not exceed the permission given by the car’s owner. A recent Florida appellate court case involving an accident that was caused by a driver who took a car without the permission of the owner illustrates the outer bounds of vicarious liability.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle when he was struck by another motorist. The car that struck the plaintiff was owned by a rental car agency and was rented to a woman who was not involved in the accident. There was contradicting evidence regarding how the driver obtained the keys to the car. The driver lived with the woman who rented the car, and he claimed that he took the keys off the kitchen counter. However, the woman claimed that she kept the keys in her locked room and never gave the driver permission to use the vehicle.

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Earlier this month, the District Court of Appeal for Florida’s Fourth Circuit issued an interesting written opinion in a medical malpractice case requiring the court to determine if a medical release waiver signed by the plaintiff should prevent the plaintiff’s medical malpractice case from proceeding to trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the waiver’s language was vague and would not necessarily inform the signer which rights they were giving up by signing the document. As a result, the waiver was deemed invalid, and the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed.

Tight ContractThe Facts of the Case

In 2013, the defendant performed spinal surgery on the plaintiff. Prior to the surgery, however, the defendant doctor requested that the plaintiff sign a medical release waiver. The waiver stated that the doctor does not carry malpractice insurance and that by signing the waiver, the plaintiff agreed not to file a lawsuit against the doctor because the plaintiff understands that the defendant “will do the very best to take care of me according to community medical standards.” The plaintiff signed the agreement, and the surgery was performed.

During the surgery, the plaintiff’s ureter was cut, causing significant injuries. Notwithstanding the medical release waiver, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against the doctor. Not surprisingly, the doctor responded by asking the court to dismiss the case based on the plaintiff’s agreement not to sue in the event anything went wrong.

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