Florida’s First District Court of Appeal has found that a bad-faith medical malpractice insurance case should go to trial. In Samiian v. First Professionals Insurance Co., a doctor performed plastic surgery on a patient who remained at his clinic following the procedure. After visiting with the patient at the end of the day, the physician apparently left the man in the care of a surgical technician. The technician reportedly administered intravenous medication to the patient before the patient unexpectedly suffered a fatal heart attack. On the following day, the doctor notified his medical malpractice insurance carrier regarding the potential for a future lawsuit.
Soon afterward, the deceased patient’s estate filed a notice of its intent to file a lawsuit against the physician, pursuant to Section 766.106(2) of the Florida Statutes. The doctor’s insurer then retained an attorney to represent him. Following an investigation into the matter, the company decided to tender a settlement check for the doctor’s full insurance policy limits of $250,000 to the deceased patient’s personal representative. Two days after the check was delivered, the lawyer who was retained by the insurer offered to submit the matter of economic damages to binding arbitration. In his letter, the attorney stated the insurance company was not amending its offer to settle the case for the full medical malpractice policy limits. Despite this, the arbitration offer was not contingent upon a damages limit. After the estate accepted the offer to arbitrate, a panel of neutral arbitrators issued an award of over $35 million in favor of the deceased patient’s estate. The arbitral award plus interest was later confirmed by a Florida court and also upheld on appeal.
Next, the physician sought damages from his malpractice insurer from a Florida court. According to the doctor, the company handled the malpractice claim in bad faith. The trial court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment and ruled that the doctor’s bad-faith claim was barred by the safe harbor provision included in Section 766.1185(1)(a) of the Florida Statutes.
On appeal, Florida’s First District found that the lower court applied the wrong statute to the case. The court stated that Section 766.1185(1)(a) only applied to cases in which an insurer tendered the full policy limits during the statutory safe harbor period. Since the insurance company paid the deceased man’s estate the full policy limits prior to the expiration of this period, the law did not apply. Instead, the appellate court ruled that Section 766.1185(2) applied to the physician’s lawsuit.
Next, the court said the doctor’s lawsuit alleged that the insurer breached its duty to him and acted in bad faith by offering to arbitrate the case without requiring a damages limit. Based on the facts alleged in the doctor’s complaint, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal held that summary judgment was inappropriate because multiple factual questions existed in the case. As a result, the appellate court ultimately found that the lower court committed an error when it granted the insurer’s motion and remanded the case for a trial.
If you or a family member was injured or tragically died due to a South Florida medical provider’s negligent act, you need a hardworking personal injury lawyer on your side to advocate on your behalf. To discuss your rights with a skillful Miami medical malpractice attorney, do not hesitate to call the caring advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.
Samiian v. First Professionals Insurance Co., Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 1st Dist. 2015
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