Medical malpractice cases comprise a large portion of the cases that are filed in Florida courts each year. To help courts sort through the claims, and to ensure that only meritorious claims are presented to the court, the Florida legislature has implemented a requirement that all medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed with an accompanying certificate of counsel. The certificate must state that counsel has conducted a reasonable investigation into the case and that the plaintiff’s theory of liability is supported by at least one medical expert’s opinion. A failure to file this certificate may result in the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious case.
A recent decision issued by a Vermont appellate court illustrates what can happen if a plaintiff fails to file the required certificate.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a woman who had died after ingesting a lethal combination of prescription and non-prescription medication. After the plaintiff discovered how her loved one had died, she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor who had prescribed the deceased woman the prescription medication. According to the court’s opinion, the doctor had prescribed several different types and doses of opioid medication.
The lawsuit, however, was only filed a few days before the statute of limitations was set to expire. Furthermore, the plaintiff failed to attach the required certificate of merit from a qualified doctor or medical expert, stating that the case had merit.
The defendant doctor asked the court to dismiss the case based on the plaintiff’s failure to file the certificate. The plaintiff asked the court for additional time to file an amended complaint, but the request was denied. The trial judge then granted the defendant doctor’s motion for summary judgment.
The plaintiff appealed, but the appellate court was not persuaded by the plaintiff’s arguments. The court explained that the expert certificate requirement was an integral part of the complaint, and the trial judge was not improper in denying the plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint with the certificate attached. The court explained that the certificate requirement was implemented to prevent defendants from needing to go through the expense and hassle of preparing to defend against cases that ultimately are determined to be frivolous. Thus, the court held that by allowing a plaintiff to file a late certificate, the defendant would be unfairly put in a position in which it would need to defend against a case that may or may not have merit.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice in Florida?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience representing medical malpractice plaintiffs. We have a broad network of medical experts with whom we routinely consult to help our clients present their cases in a favorable light. Call 877-448-8585 today to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated South Florida medical malpractice attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Appellate Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement, Rejecting Nursing Home’s Argument, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 30, 2017.
Court Characterizes Doctor’s Office Slip-and-Fall Accident as a Medical Malpractice Incident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 9, 2017.