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.