Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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.

Late last month, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a consolidated medical malpractice case against a behavioral health agency and hospital. The case involved the question of whether the plaintiff’s claim was based in medical malpractice. If so, the plaintiffs did not comply with the procedural requirements, so the case would be dismissed. However, if the court determined that the claim was one of ordinary negligence, the additional requirements of a Florida medical malpractice case would not apply.

According to the court’s opinion, a woman was transferred from a hospital to a residential treatment facility (RTF), operated by a behavioral health agency. The plaintiffs allege that, before the transfer, the hospital was providing the woman with seven medications. Upon transfer, the hospital provided the facility with prescriptions for the medicines, but failed to provide the medication. The RTF did not provide the woman with her medications, resulting in her death from “severe withdrawal syndrome.” The plaintiff, the estate of the deceased woman, alleged that the agencies were negligent because they knew or should have known that sudden withdrawal from these medications would likely cause a life-threatening danger to the woman.

In response, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint because the plaintiff failed to comply with Florida’s medical malpractice pre-suit requirements. The plaintiffs argued that their claims arose from ordinary negligence and not medical malpractice, and therefore they did not need to abide by the medical malpractice notice requirements. The trial judge agreed, and dismissed the defendants’ argument, leading them to petition the court for certiorari review.

Under Florida medical malpractice laws, individuals who suffer injuries because of a negligent physician, nurse, or another healthcare provider may file a lawsuit against the offending party to recoup their damages. These legal proceedings are often adversarial and onerous and require a thorough understanding of complex statutes and regulations. Even though many Florida medical malpractice cases will end in a negotiated settlement, the preparation leading up this result is the same as if the case is going to trial.

In many situations, a party may ask the court to grant them summary judgment and rule in their favor before the trial even begins. This is an integral part of pre-trial proceedings, and these motions often rely on expert witness testimony. The parties will typically present the testimony of expert physicians that will testify to applicable standards and whether there was a breach of the standard of care that the defendant owed. The party opposing the motion for summary judgment must be able to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact that must be resolved. The sufficiency of a motion for summary judgment often hinges on the expert’s opinion.

For example, recently, a Florida medical malpractice victim appealed a lower court’s ruling granting a hospital’s summary judgment motion. In that case, a man filed a lawsuit against a medical facility, alleging that they were negligent during his cardiac bypass surgery. The man argued that he suffered severe injuries, including a double amputation of his legs, because the facility failed to remove recalled heparin from their medical supplies. The hospital moved for summary judgment, reasoning that the victim did not prove that the facility administered contaminated heparin to the plaintiff.

When a person suffers injuries because of the negligence of a medical provider, the victim or their representative may file a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit to recover compensation for the damages that they sustained. Incidents of medical malpractice occur more frequently than people may realize. In addition to death, the most common reasons for medical malpractice claims include severe and pervasive brain damage resulting in lifelong care. In most cases, medical malpractice relates to diagnosis errors, surgical errors, and general treatment.

Florida law provides that medical malpractice victims may seek three main types of damages from the negligent health care provider:  compensatory, non-economic, and punitive damages. Victims may be entitled to compensatory damages to cover tangible losses, such as medical expenses and lost wages. By contrast, non-economic damages are designed to address losses related to pain and suffering. Courts rarely permit punitive damages, and these damages only apply in situations in which the provider engaged in gross negligence.

These damages are only available if the lawsuit is timely filed. Under Florida law, medical malpractice victims must file their lawsuit within two years of discovering their injuries and no later than four years after the incident. However, there are certain crucial exceptions in specific incidents of medical malpractice.

Recently, a Florida appellate court addressed the statute of limitations in Florida medical malpractice lawsuits. The appeal stemmed from a complicated medical malpractice case involving the birth of a baby born with brain injuries, allegedly because of negligent care by a hospital and physician. Following delivery, doctors told the parents of the baby that their child needed to remain in the hospital for an additional 10 days because of an infection. Before releasing the baby, the hospital performed a head ultrasound and reported that the findings were unremarkable. In the months following discharge, the plaintiff suspected that something was wrong with her child because he was not meeting developmental milestones.

For approximately the next year, the mother took the child to various specialists, all of whom diagnosed the baby with other mild and common conditions. However, in 2011, the family retained an attorney, who filed a petition with NICA, Florida’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, on behalf of the child. It was not until the baby was three years old that a doctor diagnosed him with spastic cerebral palsy, which is typically caused by a lack of oxygen during delivery. With this information, the family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and physician. The hospital filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations barred the case.

Generally, under Florida law, medical malpractice lawsuits must abide by the state’s two-year statute of limitations. The two years begin to run from when the patient knew or should have known that an injury occurred because of medical malpractice. Additionally, the state’s statute of repose provides that, barring exceptional circumstances, health care professionals cannot be liable for medical malpractice more than four years after the incident occurs. There are specific exceptions to this statute, which are relevant when there are incidents of fraud, misrepresentation, or concealment.

Under Florida law, health care providers owe a duty to their patients. This duty requires doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to provide a certain level of care to their patients. When a medical professional fails to live up to this duty, and a patient is injured as a result, the patient may be able to pursue compensation through a South Florida medical malpractice lawsuit.

Medical malpractice claims can be complex, and they often raise several unanticipated issues. One of the most critical early decisions that an injured patient must make is which parties to name as defendants. Of course, the medical professional whose negligence resulted in the patient’s injuries is an obvious choice. However, there may be other parties that can be named to improve a plaintiff’s chance of recovering compensation for their injuries.

This stands true for all Florida personal injury cases. And a common source of liability is an at-fault party’s employer. For example, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer can be held liable for the negligent acts of their employee. Thus, employers are routinely named as defendants in cases involving an employee’s negligence. However, most medical professionals are legally classified as contractors rather than employees, making a respondeat superior claim difficult, if not impossible.

Infants, children, and young teenagers are susceptible to a wide array of medical and health issues that can have lifelong and potentially fatal outcomes. Although safe and swift medical treatment is important for all individuals, it is crucial for populations that are unable to articulate their symptoms or effectively advocate on their behalf. When medical professionals fail to appropriately treat young children, they may be liable under Florida’s medical malpractice statutes.

Florida law requires that medical professionals adhere to a reasonable standard of care when treating their patients. When a physician or other health care provider diverges from this standard of care, either by their action or by their failure to act, they may be liable to compensate their patients for the damages that they suffered. Under Florida’s medical malpractice statute, medical professionals owe children a “substantial duty of care.” This heightened standard means that these professionals must act reasonably in all aspects of their handling of the child’s medical care.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) lists pediatric medical malpractice lawsuits as one of the most common types of medical malpractice lawsuits brought against medical professionals. Some common incidents that result in medical malpractice are birth injuries, failures to diagnose, misdiagnoses, prescription errors, defective laboratory equipment, and surgical complications.

Most Florida medical malpractice claims involve a medical professional and their patient. Yet some cases have raised the issue of whether other people can bring a claim against a medical professional where the plaintiff suffered an injury because of the professional’s negligent professional conduct.

In May 2016, a man was driving his truck on a highway when he crashed with a horse-drawn hay trailer, killing one passenger and injuring the other four passengers. In April 2015, the man had been declared blind and instructed not to drive. However, about six weeks before the crash, a doctor told the man that his vision had improved, and that could drive, with some restrictions. After the collision, the plaintiffs argued that the doctor was liable for their injuries because the man’s vision was still below the minimum vision standards required to drive according to state law. The plaintiffs argued that the doctor owed a duty to the injured parties to warn the man that his vision did not meet the standards to drive under state law.

In that case, the court considered whether the doctor could be held liable in such cases. The court found that it was somewhat foreseeable that a person who drivers with impaired vision might cause a car accident. However, the eye doctor did not treat or provide medication to the patient that led to his vision impairment. In addition, the court found the public policy concerns persuasive, such as how the imposition of a duty might affect the doctor-patient relationship, and such a duty would lead to higher health care costs. Therefore, the court found a doctor does not have a duty to third parties based on a doctor’s failure to warn a patient about driving risks resulting from the patient’s medical condition. However, the court found that the injured passengers could still sue the doctor because the driver had agreed to assign his medical malpractice claim and any recovery to the injured passengers.

Florida medical malpractice claims require extensive work and resources. In a recent medical malpractice case before a federal appeals court, the court had to consider whether a $7 million dollar verdict could stand against a doctor after a baby suffered permanent brain damage after her birth.

Evidently, the baby was born with severe respiratory issues and developed permanent brain damage. The baby was born at a hospital that did not have a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and did not have all of the equipment found in a NICU. Babies that needed specialized care were often transported to a nearby hospital with a NICU. This baby showed signs of respiratory distress immediately after she was born. She was provided with supplemental oxygen, and the doctor left for a few hours. The baby was not improving, and the doctor first decided to transfer the baby to the nearby NICU. However, a new neonatologist specialist at the hospital said that a transfer was not necessary, and agreed to take the baby on as a patient.

The baby’s condition continued to deteriorate, and she was eventually transferred the next day to the NICU, and stayed for almost a month. The baby’s mother filed a lawsuit alleging that the first doctor and others were at fault for the baby’s permanent brain damage. The mother claimed that the doctor should have transferred the baby from the hospital where she was born to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit that could have provided the baby with the care she needed. The other defendants settled the suit with the mother, but the case against the doctor went to trial, and the court awarded the mother over $7 million in damages.

While filing any personal injury case can be complicated, Florida medical malpractice cases have an exceptionally complex set of procedural requirements. If a plaintiff fails to follow these exacting requirements, the court will likely dismiss their case, potentially leaving the plaintiff without any remedy for their injuries.

When discussing the requirements of a medical malpractice lawsuit, perhaps the best place to start is with the Florida medical malpractice pre-suit requirements. Before an injury victim can file a medical malpractice case, they must provide notice to each of the defendants named in the lawsuit. The plaintiff must attach an affidavit from a medical professional stating that the plaintiff has a valid medical malpractice claim.

Once the defendant receives the plaintiff’s pre-suit notice, there is a 90-day period in which the defendant must investigate the claim and determine whether they will contest the allegations or agree to settle the claim. During these 90 days, the statute of limitations is tolled. If the defendant denies liability, the plaintiff will have 60 days from that date, or until the end of the statute of limitations, to file a formal case against all defendants.

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