Appellate Court Allows Evidence of Out-of-Court Settlements in Medical Malpractice Case

Earlier this month, one state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that required the court to determine whether the single doctor named as a defendant should be able to introduce evidence that there had originally been several other doctors named as defendants, but they had all settled with the plaintiff before the case reached trial. Ultimately, the court determined that the contested evidence was relevant to the case and should have been admitted.

Surgeon's ToolsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who died while he was being treated by the defendant doctor after he slipped and fell while playing racquetball. The defendant was one of several doctors who treated the plaintiffs’ loved one, and each of the other treating physicians had originally been named in the lawsuit. However, the plaintiffs agreed to settle the cases against the other physicians out of court and proceed to trial against only the defendant.

In a pre-trial motion, the plaintiffs asked the court to prevent the defendant from explaining to the jury that there were originally several other doctors named in the lawsuit, but they had reached settlements with the plaintiffs. Additionally, the plaintiffs asked the court to prevent the defendant from arguing that the subsequent acts of these other non-present doctors acted as an intervening cause of their loved one’s death. The trial court denied both of the plaintiffs’ motions, and the case proceeded to trial. The jury found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Decision Is Affirmed on Appeal

On appeal, the plaintiffs claimed that the potential negligence of other doctors was irrelevant to the determination of whether the defendant violated the standard of care he owed to their loved one. The plaintiffs also claimed that the introduction of the evidence was unfair, since it left the impression with the jury that the at-fault parties had already been found liable for the death of their loved one.

The court disagreed with both arguments, finding that the trial judge was proper to allow the defendant to present the evidence and argue that a non-party’s negligence was an intervening cause of the death. The court explained that in this case, one of the key findings the jury had to make was whether the defendant’s allegedly negligent actions resulted in the death of the plaintiffs’ loved one. To the extent that the actions of another physician who subsequently treated the plaintiffs’ loved one may have been responsible for his death, the evidence was relevant to refute the element of causation. As a result, the trial court properly admitted the evidence for the jury’s consideration, and the jury’s verdict was upheld.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice in South Florida?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. As the case discussed above illustrates, it is extremely important that all potentially responsible parties are named in the lawsuit from the beginning, to prevent one defendant from shifting blame onto another non-present defendant. The skilled injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have decades of experience handling South Florida medical malpractice cases, and we understand the strategic decisions that go into every case. We cater our representation to each case and each client. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Determines Water Company May Be Liable in Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 4, 2017.

The Importance of Following All Procedural Requirements in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 17, 2017.

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