In a recent case, the Third District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a final summary judgment entered in favor of the defendants, appellees the University of Miami, Xue Zhong Liu, M.D. and Rebecca Rodriguez, L.P.N. After going on vacation in Florida, the patient complained of a severe earache and went to an ENT clinic operated by the University of Miami to seek medical assistance. Nurse Rodriguez took the patient’s blood pressure, which was 233/150, which constitutes severe hypertension. Dr. Liu asserts that he instructed the patient to go to the emergency room for evaluation and treatment while the patient claims that no such instruction was given. The patient did not go to the emergency room and nine days later, suffered a debilitating hemorrhagic stroke that was precipitated by an aneurysm due to the severe hypertension. The patient then filed suit, alleging that appellees caused her to have a stroke by failing to provide expeditious treatment of her severe hypertension, and by failing to inform her of the dangers of high blood pressure coupled with ear pain.
Facts of the Case
After seeking medical assistance from the ENT clinic affiliated with the University of Miami, the patient did not go to an emergency room. She claims that no instruction to go to an emergency room was given while Dr. Liu asserts that he instructed her to go to an emergency room for evaluation and treatment. The medical record reflects the following notation by Nurse Rodriguez: “Patient BP is elevated she stated it always comes up high. She has consulted with her Primary doctor.” The medical record is otherwise silent as to what occurred with respect to treatment for the hypertension. The record further reflects that Dr. Liu removed excess earwax from the patient’s ear and discharged her. Nine days later the patient experienced a debilitating hemorrhagic stroke triggered by an aneurysm due to her severe hypertension.
At trial, the patient filed a medical malpractice action against appellees alleging in her operative complaint that appellees caused her stroke by failing to provide expeditious treatment of her severe hypertension, and by failing to inform her of the dangers of high blood pressure coupled with ear pain. During the discovery process, the patient’s action transformed from a failure to treat case to a failure to refer case, arguing that the appellees should have referred the patient to the emergency room for immediate care, and that their failure to do so caused her eventual stroke. The trial court ultimately entered a final summary judgment in favor of the defendants, ruling against the patient. The patient then filed a timely appeal.
On appeal, the patient argued that the trial court abused its discretion by striking one of the patient’s causation experts at trial, subsequently leading to the final summary judgment ruling. The appellate court reviewed the trial court’s expert witness determination under the highly deferential abuse of discretion standard. Under the standard, the trial court’s striking of an expert witness could only be revered if the appellate court determined that no other reasonable judge would have taken the view adopted by the trial court. Ultimately, the appellate court disagreed with the patient, finding no abuse of discretion by the trial court when it struck the patient’s causation expert. Subsequently, the appeals court affirmed the final summary judgment entered by the trial court.
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