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.
The 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.
The Court’s Reasoning in Striking Down the Agreement
The court determined that the release waiver was not valid and refused to enforce it. The court explained that the medical release waiver was a type of exculpatory clause, which is generally disfavored under the law. However, in some situations, exculpatory clauses can be valid if the clause clearly conveys the rights that the person signing is giving up by signing the agreement.
Here, however, the court concluded that the clause was not sufficiently clear. The court found that the last sentence – that the plaintiff understands that the defendant “will do the very best to take care of me according to community medical standards” – may not impart the true significance of the rights the plaintiff is giving up by signing. Instead, the court determined that the final sentence creates the impression that the defendant would only be excused for any injuries that “ordinarily and inevitably would occur, without any fault of the defendant.” Because of this ambiguity, the court was unwilling to give the waiver any legal effect, and the plaintiff’s lawsuit was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of what you believe to be medical malpractice, you may be entitled to significant monetary compensation through a South Florida medical malpractice case. The skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience assisting injured clients in a wide range of cases, including surgical errors and misdiagnoses. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case today.
More Blog Posts:
Errant Golf Ball Strikes Baby in Stroller on Nearby City-Owned Walking Path, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2017.
The Importance of Following All Procedural Requirements in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 17, 2017.