Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Florida medical malpractice lawsuits must pass several procedural hurdles before a judge or jury is able to listen to the facts of the case and decide if the plaintiff is entitled to any relief. In Florida, one such rule requires plaintiffs to submit a statement from a qualified medical expert corroborating their claim before the suit can proceed. This requirement is designed to weed out meritless claims and free up space in court dockets for malpractice claims that have a chance of succeeding. A circuit of the Florida Court of Appeals recently addressed a petition filed by a group of medical malpractice defendants that alleged the plaintiff failed to meet the presuit expert corroboration requirements for a claim to proceed. The defendants petitioned the court to directly challenge a lower court ruling that denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim based upon this argument.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case sued several defendants affiliated with the Shands Teaching Hospital, located on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville. The plaintiff alleged in their suit that medical services provided by a certified nurse practitioner at the hospital were not compliant with the standard of care required and that the plaintiff was injured as a result. In order to comply with the presuit expert corroboration requirement for a Florida medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff submitted an affidavit from a certified medical doctor with knowledge in the field. In response to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendants alleged that the plaintiff’s medical doctor expert was not qualified to address the standard of care applicable to the certified nurse practitioner who rendered care in the plaintiff’s case.

The trial court reviewed the qualifications of the plaintiff’s medical expert, comparing them with the substance of the plaintiff’s claim and the role assumed by the defendant. The court subsequently denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the plaintiff’s expert opinion was sufficient to fulfill the presuit requirements for the case to proceed. The defendants then filed a petition with the Florida Court of Appeals, attempting to have their motion reheard by a higher court. In addressing the petition, the high court noted the strict procedural requirements for the court to hear the defendants’ appeal, and ultimately declined consideration of their arguments. Specifically, the court ruled that the defendants did not show that proceeding with the case at the trial court would result in direct and irreparable harm to the defendants that could not be corrected on direct appeal. As a result of the appellate ruling, the plaintiff’s claim will proceed at the lower court toward a settlement or trial.

Recently, an appellate court issued a decision addressing whether a plaintiff’s claim falls under Florida’s negligence statute or the state’s medical malpractice statute. The plaintiff filed a claim against the defendant, a healthcare group, for injuries he suffered while receiving treatment at the facility. According to the record, the hospital admitted the patient for diagnostic imaging. Following the procedure, the plaintiff tried to move from the exam table to a wheelchair. However, the plaintiff fell because the attendant failed to secure the wheelchair brakes properly. The plaintiff claimed that his claim was based on ordinary negligence, not medical malpractice.

However, the court dismissed the complaint at trial, finding that the claim sounded in medical malpractice, and the plaintiff failed to abide by the applicable statute of limitations.

In cases like this, the initial inquiry is based on determining whether the claim stems from ordinary negligence or medical malpractice. According to Florida courts, these types of “gray-area” cases hinge on the specific circumstances of the injury. However, the law limits a court’s inquiry to the allegations within the “four corners” of the plaintiff’s complaint at the preliminary stages. In this case, the court found that the plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to meet the elements of an ordinary negligence claim. As such, they reversed the trial court’s finding, ruling that the dismissal with prejudice was inappropriate.

The procedural requirements for successfully pursuing a Florida medical malpractice claim may be complicated and confusing to victims of medical malpractice. Plaintiffs must be sure they are pursuing a case in the proper venue against any appropriate defendants. Additionally, plaintiffs must initiate their claim within the statute of limitations period and also meet several pre-suit notice requirements that can appear frivolous. These procedural requirements are far from frivolous, however, because a plaintiff’s failure to fulfill any of the requirements could be permanently fatal to their claim, irrespective of whether the defendant committed malpractice or not. A recent opinion published by the Florida District Court of Appeal discusses the issue of pre-suit notice requirements of a Florida medical malpractice claim.

The plaintiff in the recently decided suit received treatment from the defendant after suffering injuries while incarcerated. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant committed medical malpractice by making mistakes during a surgery performed on the plaintiff, which caused permanent damage. The plaintiff pursued a medical malpractice claim against the defendant based on the alleged negligence.

Florida law requires medical malpractice plaintiffs to meet certain pre-suit notice requirements in order to have their claims heard by the court. In addition to other notice requirements, plaintiffs must notify each defendant by certified mail that they are being sued for medical malpractice and include an authorization form to release the plaintiff’s medical records for the upcoming suit. If these notices are not properly sent to each defendant within the two-year statute of limitations for a Florida medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff’s suit can be dismissed without any analysis of their actual claims.

Florida medical malpractice and product liability laws allow injury victims to hold negligent parties liable for their injuries. Many cases involve the interplay of both of these areas of the area, which enhances the complexity of these lawsuits. Florida’s strict medical malpractice and product liability laws impose significant burdens on injury victims. For example, claimants must prove that a medical professional breached a standard of care and the breach was the “proximate” or “actual” cause of the victim’s damages. However, in some cases involving defective products, there is no requirement to show the manufacturer breached a duty. Plaintiffs must meet all procedural and evidentiary requirements to avoid the dismissal of an otherwise legitimate claim.

In most cases, Florida medical malpractice and defective product claims hinge on an expert witness’s testimony. After several years of constant flux regarding the appropriate expert witness standard, in 2019, the Florida Supreme Court stated that the state follows the Daubert standard for the admission of expert testimony. Under Daubert, the trial judge maintains the discretionary gatekeeping function to determine whether an expert’s testimony is reliable and relevant. Specifically, the rule explains that an expert is qualified by knowledge, skill, or technical training and education to form an opinion. A court may qualify an expert if:

  • Their credentials will help the fact finder understand relevant evidence;

Recently, a medical malpractice plaintiff appealed a trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of a hospital system. The case arose when the plaintiff visited a Florida hospital for appendicitis and an abscess. An on-call surgeon met with the plaintiff; however, the plaintiff felt uneasy with the surgeon and requested another doctor. The next doctor was not available until the next morning, so the plaintiff proceeded with the surgeon. The plaintiff requested antibiotics after the surgery, but the surgeon explained that they were unnecessary. However, the plaintiff suffered a serious postoperative infection. He filed a lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital. The hospital argued that the doctor was an independent contractor, and not an employee or agent of the hospital.

Under Florida’s vicarious liability laws, an employer may be liable for the negligence of the employees committed within their employment scope. In cases involving hospitals and independent contractor physicians, a hospital may still be liable if the hospital “cloaked her with apparent authority to act on its behalf.” Apparent agency exists if the plaintiff can establish three elements.

The three elements of an apparent agency inquiry are:

A Florida appellate court recently issued an opinion addressing whether a plaintiff could hold a university teaching hospital liable for medical malpractice. The main issue turned on whether sovereign immunity protects the university teaching hospital involved in the case.

In 2004, the university and healthcare system agreed to an affiliation contract that provided that the woman’s treating doctor was a university faculty member and employee. The agreement included an agreement between the doctor and the healthcare system, where the doctor would treat the system’s indigent patients. In 2011, the Florida lawmakers amended 768.28, Florida Statutes, thereby replacing the 2004 affiliation agreement. The amendment covered all patients’ care and provided that all university employees and faculty were acting as an agent of the healthcare system.

The record indicates that the woman received treatment for an illness with several doctors employed by a teaching hospital where the university provides healthcare services. She alleged that her doctors’ failure to prescribed appropriate medication resulted in her disabilities. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against several parties, including the healthcare system, the university, and her treating physician. In response to the medical malpractice lawsuit, the university contended that they were entitled to immunity under Florida’s sovereign immunity statutes.

Under Florida law, dentists and dental surgeons may be liable for medical malpractice if their negligence causes disfigurement, damage, or harm to their patients. Individuals who suffer injuries because of their dentist’s negligence must meet specific requirements to recover compensation. Generally, there are four elements to a Florida dental malpractice lawsuit, the duty of care the dentist owed the patient, whether they breached that duty, the injury the victim suffered, and the damages the victim incurred. These lawsuits require a thorough and comprehensive understanding of various substantive and procedural rules, and it is essential to contact an attorney to discuss how to pursue your claim successfully.

The first element of a dental malpractice claim requires the patient or their loved one to prove that the dentist owed them a duty of care. In these cases, the standard duty of care is that of which any other ordinary, prudent, similarly situated dentist would be under. A breach of the standard of care occurs when the dentist fails to meet this standard. However, in some situations, a patient may suffer an unwanted result that was not necessarily due to the dentist’s negligence.

Next, plaintiffs in these cases must be able to establish that there was a causal relationship between their injuries and the dentist’s breach. Essentially, the plaintiff must be able to provide evidence that their injuries would not have occurred but for the dentist’s negligent conduct. Many dental medical malpractice claims stem from failed procedures, erroneous extractions, nerve damage, tooth damage, disfigurement, and exposure to harmful chemicals.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a consolidated case against a hospital and behavioral health company. The defendants petitioned the court to review a trial court’s orders denying their motions to dismiss a plaintiff’s claim against them. The defendants argued that the court should dismiss the claims because the plaintiff did not comply with Florida’s medical malpractice presuit requirements.

According to the court’s opinion, the case arose after a personal representative of the deceased filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant. The family claimed that the plaintiff was transferred from a hospital to a residential treatment facility (RTF) operated by the behavioral health company. During her hospital stay, the woman received several medications; however, at transfer, the hospital provided the RTF with prescriptions but not the actual medications. The RTF did not administer the medicines, and the plaintiff died as a result of medical withdrawal.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit claimed that both entities were negligent because they knew or should have known that the failure to administer medication would likely result in life-threatening injuries. The defendants argued that the case was not sound in ordinary negligence, but rather medical malpractice. As such, because the plaintiff’s claim did not comply with Florida’s requirements, the trial judge should dismiss the complaint. The trial judge denied the motions; however, they noted that the case was a “close call.”

Recently, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida (USF), appealed a final judgment in favor of a plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff underwent abdominal surgery at Tampa General Hospital. USF employed the surgeon that performed the plaintiff’s surgery. Post-surgery, the woman’s condition quickly deteriorated, and she was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). The plaintiff alleged that during this time, her surgeon and a critical care team oversaw her care. After some time, the critical care team determined that her condition was likely an infection. The critical care team administered antibiotics, and the woman underwent a second surgery. The surgeon who performed the surgery discovered that there was a perforation in the woman’s bowel. The woman suffered severe life-altering injuries, which required several surgeries and long-term hospitalization and rehab.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against her original surgeon, the hospital, and USF. The critical care team settled with the woman before trial. At trial against USF and the hospital, the plaintiff claimed that the surgeon perforated her bowel, and her injuries were the result of the failure of everyone involved in her treatment. The woman presented an expert who testified that she would not have suffered long-term injuries if the woman received timely antibiotic treatment.

USF countered that their surgeon was not negligent, and even if he was, the woman’s injuries were not the result of his negligence. Instead, they claimed that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the critical care team’s failure to administer antibiotics at the appropriate time. Further, the surgeon denied perforating the woman’s bowel and argued that the injury occurred after surgery. Moreover, both parties’ experts opined that even if the bowel injury occurred during an operation, that was not a departure from a standard of care. At the close of the evidence, the trial court dismissed the hospital from the case. USF argued that if the jury found them liable, the jury should consider apportioning liability to the critical care team.

A Florida appellate court recently issued an opinion in a consolidated petition addressing whether a claim stemming from an emergency room physician’s failure to transfer a patient for financial gain is sound in medical malpractice. According to the record, the decedent visited an emergency room for treatment for several medical conditions. While she was there, the emergency room physicians determined that she needed to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). However, the hospital’s ICU was at capacity, so instead of transferring the woman, they left her in the hallway for several hours, where she eventually died.

The family filed a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging that the only reason they admitted the decedent was to generate hospital revenue. Further, they contended that this decision led to her treatment by the physician who caused her death. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit before engaging in the pre-suit investigation process, required by Florida law.

Under Florida law, medical malpractice plaintiffs must abide by specific filing deadlines and procedural requirements. Florida statute of limitations imposes a deadline by which a plaintiff must file a lawsuit against a negligent health care provider. Typically, plaintiffs must file their lawsuits within two years of discovering the injury or when they should have reasonably discovered the injury. Still, the lawsuit cannot be filed more than four years from when the negligent conduct occurred. There are some exceptions when the health care provider engages in fraud to conceal their malpractice. Additionally, there are certain exceptions for minors or those who lack capacity.

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