Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida medical malpractice case requiring the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s three expert affidavits were sufficient to comply with the requirements of Florida Statutes 766.102 outlining the expert affidavit requirement.

Florida’s Expert Affidavit Requirement

Under Florida law, a plaintiff bringing a Florida medical malpractice claim must conduct a pre-suit investigation to “ascertain whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant medical provider was negligent, and that the negligence resulted in injury to the claimant.” In addition, a plaintiff must obtain an expert affidavit from a qualified expert stating that the expert has reviewed the plaintiff’s case, and that it has merit.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant orthopedic surgeon performed a hip-replacement surgery on the defendant. During the operation, the defendant fractured the plaintiff’s hip. The plaintiff filed a Florida medical malpractice claim against the orthopedic surgeon. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented three expert witness affidavits from an emergency room physician, a radiologist, and a nurse.

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Nobody plays a sport with the intention of getting hurt, yet each year there are thousands of Florida sports injuries. Most are minor, but some can be quite serious. As a general matter, anyone who is injured while playing a sport can pursue a claim for compensation against the parties they believe to be responsible for their injuries. However, it is important for Florida sports accident victims to understand the doctrine of assumption of the risk.

The Assumption of the Risk

Most sports present some risk of injury. Under the assumption of the risk doctrine, plaintiffs who willingly take on known risks and participate in sporting events may be partially liable for any injuries they sustain. In Florida, this is called implied assumption of the risk.

In Florida, there is also the doctrine of express assumption of the risk, which can completely preclude an accident victim from recovering for their injuries. However, Florida courts limit the application of express assumption of the risk to cases involving express agreements not to sue and cases involving contact sports. A recent state appellate opinion discusses assumption of the risk in the context of a skiing accident. While the case arose in another jurisdiction, the court’s reasoning is illustrative of why express assumption of the risk is rare in Florida sports injury cases.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit discussing whether the plaintiff’s case should be able to proceed toward trial despite the fact that the hazard causing her fall was open and obvious. The court concluded that, despite the obvious nature of the hazard, the defendant condo association was not relieved from repairing the known hazard. Thus, the court held that while the plaintiff could not proceed with a failure-to-warn claim against the defendant, her claim based on negligent maintenance of the property.

The Plaintiff’s Injuries

As the court explained the facts in its opinion, the plaintiff owned property in the defendant condo association and had lived there for the past 15 years. One day, the plaintiff was walking on the sidewalk in an area where she regularly traveled when she tripped on an unlevel sidewalk. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall and filed a Florida personal injury case naming the condo association as a defendant.

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the condo association argued that the unlevel sidewalk was an open and obvious hazard and because of that, the plaintiff could not recover for her injuries. The trial court agreed, finding that as a matter of law, uneven pavement is considered an open and obvious hazard, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff filed an appeal.

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In many Florida personal injury cases, the case comes down to physical evidence. For example, in a lawsuit claiming that a defective tire was responsible for a serious Florida car accident, the tire would seem to be a critical piece of evidence. However, in the wake of a serious accident, the parties involved may not be thinking about an upcoming lawsuit. This raises the possibility that a party may destroy – either intentionally or unintentionally – important evidence.

Under Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.380, courts can sanction a party for failing to preserve evidence. The sanctions that a court can impose against a party ranges from precluding the party from admitting evidence, prohibiting certain claims or defenses, giving the jury an adverse inference instruction, or dismissal of a case.

Generally, a court will not impose serious sanctions on a party who inadvertently destroys evidence. In Florida, when determining what sanction is appropriate, courts consider 1.) whether the destruction of evidence was willful or done in bad faith, 2.) the prejudice suffered by the other party, and 3.) whether the prejudice could be cured by the court. A recent case illustrates how courts handle claims of spoliation.

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When someone is injured in a Florida workplace accident, compensation may be available through several sources. One option for the injured employee is to apply for Florida workers’ compensation benefits. One good thing about workers’ compensation benefits is that an employee can obtain benefits without a showing of fault. However, these benefits are limited in that an employee can only recover economic damages. This means an employee is not able to obtain compensation for their emotional pain and suffering.

Another option for those who have been injured in a Florida workplace accident is to pursue a personal injury claim against their employer. However, as a general rule, an injured employee’s sole remedy against their employer is a workers’ compensation claim. Thus, many employees are foreclosed from pursuing a Florida personal injury claim against their employer.

That is not the case, however, for maritime workers. Under the Jones Act, those seamen who are injured or killed in the course of their employment may be able to pursue a claim against their employer. (Note: Florida railroad workers enjoy a similar benefit under the Federal Employment Liability Act.) It is important to note, however, that an employee who brings a claim under the Jones Act must establish that their employer was negligent. As a recent case illustrates, the duties that a maritime employer owes to its employees may be unfamiliar to those without advanced knowledge of the industry.

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Determining which parties to name as defendants in a Florida trucking accident is a crucial decision that must be made early on in the process. Of course, an obvious choice is to name the driver of the truck involved in the accident. However, Florida truck accident victims would be wise to consider whether additional parties may also be liable for their injuries.

As a general rule, employers are vicariously liable for the negligent actions of their employees so long as, at the time of the accident, the employee was acting within the scope of their employment. However, this only applies when the truck driver and the trucking company have an employee/employer relationship. If the truck driver is an independent contractor, the contracting company will likely not be held liable for the driver’s actions. Thus, the determination of whether a truck driver is an employee or a contractor commonly comes up in Florida truck accident cases.

A recent state appellate decision illustrates how courts analyze claims against trucking companies.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case discussing one of the most complex and contested elements in Florida medical malpractice cases. The case required the court to explain the causation requirement as it applies to Florida medical malpractice claims. Ultimately, the court remanded the case to the lower court based on the lower court’s application of an incorrect legal principle.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff noticed a large mass on the back of her head and went to her primary care doctor for an evaluation. That doctor determined that the mass was a tumor and referred the plaintiff to a surgeon. The surgeon diagnosed the mass as an osteosarcoma, and determined that it was close to pressing upon her brain. Thus, the surgeon recommended the plaintiff undergo surgery to de-bulk the tumor. However, before he ordered the surgery, the surgeon ordered several tests to make sure the plaintiff’s body could handle the surgery.

Evidently, the test results came back abnormal. However, the plaintiff’s primary care physician cleared her for surgery nonetheless. On the morning of the surgery, the plaintiff’s anesthesiologist was running late, so she was seen by another anesthesiologist (the defendant) who quickly reviewed the plaintiff’s test results. However, the defendant only saw some of the abnormal results. The defendant determined that, from what he saw, everything seemed fine. In the middle of the pre-anesthesia interview, the plaintiff’s anesthesiologist showed up, and began the evaluation from the beginning.

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Florida is unique in that parts of the state enjoy over 170 days of sunshine each year. As a result, swimming pools are common across the state. However, swimming pools present serious dangers to children, and those who own or operate swimming pools must take precautions to guard against accident drownings.

Florida swimming pool deaths can occur either at a public or private pool. In either event, pool owners have a responsibly to install specific safety measures and, in some cases, to provide adequate supervision. A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court discusses a tragic death that occurred at a government-run swimming pool.

The Facts

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff’s daughter was on a field trip to a water park that was run by the local parks and recreation department. Prior to allowing her daughter to go on the trip, the plaintiff contacted the playground coordinator at the park, explaining that her daughter does not know how to swim. The coordinator assured the plaintiff that her daughter would be assessed before she would be allowed into the deeper areas of the pool. However, the young girl tragically drowned while department staff members were changing in the locker room.

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In any Florida personal injury case brought against a nursing home, one issue that frequently arises is whether the resident has previously agreed to arbitrate their claim, rather than proceed through the court system. This is a critical issue because, in some cases, an arbitration clause signed by a resident may also preclude a resident’s family member from pursuing a claim against the nursing home.

While arbitration is supposed to be a neutral alternative to the court system, most experts agree that arbitration favors nursing homes for several reasons. For example, arbitration is generally a quicker process than a traditional lawsuit, saving nursing homes significant money on litigation costs. More concerning, however, is that arbitration proceedings are not bound by the procedural and evidentiary rules that apply in a Florida personal injury lawsuit. Finally, arbitration results are generally kept secret and cannot be appealed.

Given the benefits arbitration offers to nursing homes, most Florida nursing homes include arbitration agreements in their pre-admission contracts. Generally, a valid arbitration contract is enforceable. However, to prove that an arbitration agreement binds a plaintiff, a nursing home must establish that the plaintiff’s case falls within the agreement. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion discussing whether a court can determine, as a preliminary matter, whether a claim must be resolved through arbitration.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida car accident case discussing whether a private residential community could be held liable for the injuries sustained by motorists who were involved in a collision within the community. Ultimately, the court concluded that any alleged negligence of the community was not the proximate cause of the car accident, and thus the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiffs were driving through a residential community when another motorist rear-ended them. Evidently, the plaintiffs’ vehicle had come to a stop to allow oncoming trucks to pass through a narrow area of the road where there were cars parked on both sides of the street. As the plaintiffs waited for the vehicles to pass, they were rear-ended.

The plaintiffs filed a Florida personal injury lawsuit against the motorist that struck their vehicle as well as the residential community. In support of their claim against the residential community, the plaintiffs cited a city code that prohibited parking on both sides of the street. Apparently, when the community was first created parking was only permitted in the driveways of residents’ homes; however, after discovering that this policy resulted in a severe parking shortage, the community allowed parking on both sides of the street. The plaintiffs claimed that by allowing residents to park on both sides of the road in violation of the city ordinance, the residential community was partially responsible for the accident.

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