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.