Negligence Lawsuit Over Florida Psychiatric Patient’s Death Must Comply With Pre-Suit Notice Requirements Enumerated in Medical Malpractice Reform Act

file000388465185 morguefile MetalliXIn Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc. v. Estate of Lawson, a woman with a history of mental illness was admitted to a hospital’s locked psychiatric unit in 2013. Unfortunately, the woman somehow got access to a facility worker’s keys and escaped the building. After that, the woman ran onto a nearby highway and was struck by a vehicle. Sadly, the woman died as a result of her injuries.

Following the woman’s death, her estate filed an ordinary negligence lawsuit against the hospital in a Florida court. The hospital filed a motion to dismiss the case and asserted that the estate’s lawsuit was actually a medical negligence complaint. According to the medical facility, the estate’s case was subject to dismissal because it failed to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements enumerated in Chapter 766 of the Florida Statutes. The trial court denied the hospital’s motion, and the facility sought a writ of certiorari to quash the lower court’s order from Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

The appellate court stated a party who seeks certiorari relief related to the denial of a motion to dismiss must establish the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law, which resulted in a material injury that could not be corrected on appeal. The appeals court then said it was well established that allowing a medical negligence case that has not complied with the pre-suit notice requirements to proceed goes against the purpose of Florida’s Medical Malpractice Reform Act.

Next, the court examined whether the case relied on an ordinary or medical negligence cause of action. After examining the facts of the case, the Court of Appeal found that the estate’s lawsuit arose out of the decedent’s medical care or services. Although the case did not allege that medical malpractice occurred, the court said the purported breach in the negligence case arose out of the hospital’s failure to maintain the deceased woman in its locked psychiatric unit. As a result, the court ruled that the estate’s lawsuit was subject to the notice requirements included in Chapter 766.

Ultimately, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal held that the trial court should have granted the hospital’s motion to dismiss the case without prejudice and granted the medical facility’s request for a writ of certiorari to quash the lower court’s order.

If you or someone you love was injured due to a South Florida health care professional’s negligence, you should speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can help you safeguard your rights. To schedule a free consultation with a diligent Miami personal injury lawyer soon, do not hesitate to contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. online or give us a call today at (305) 448-8585.

Additional Resources:

Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc. v. Estate of Lawson, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015

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