Appellate Court Rules Negligence Case Against Hospital is Not Subject to Florida Medical Malpractice Act

Florida’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal has refused to grant a hospital’s petition for a writ of certiorari. In Holmes Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Dumigan, a man was apparently injured by a drug that was used on him during a surgical procedure even though it was previously recalled. As a result of the hospital’s alleged failure to dispose of the recalled drug, the man and his wife filed a negligence and products liability action against the medical facility where his surgery was performed. After a trial court refused to grant the hospital’s motion to dismiss the case, the hospital asked Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal to review the lower court’s order.

According to the hospital’s petition for a writ of certiorari, the plaintiffs’ lawsuit was inappropriately characterized as a products liability and negligence action. The medical facility claimed that the statutory presuit notice requirements enumerated in the Florida Medical Malpractice Act (“FMMA”) instead applied to the case. Since the plaintiffs failed to comply with the FMMA’s notice requirements, the hospital argued that the trial court should have dismissed the case.

The Fifth District first stated a party that seeks a writ of certiorari must demonstrate that the lower court departed from the law’s requirements in a way that caused the party material injury that could not be adequately remedied on appeal. If no irreparable harm occurred, an appeals court may not address whether a trial court departed “from the essential requirements of the law.” Next, the court said a writ of certiorari may be used to review a case involving the FMMA’s presuit notice requirements. According to the appellate court, the purpose of the law is to encourage settlement of meritless medical malpractice claims. When a plaintiff fails to provide presuit notice, the defendant is irreparably harmed because he or she loses the money-saving opportunities created by the FMMA.

Florida’s Fifth District then dismissed the couple’s claim that the hospital did not adequately preserve the question at issue for appellate consideration. After that, the court addressed the merits of the case. The Court of Appeal stated the plaintiffs’ claims did not constitute a product liability or simple negligence cause of action simply because they asserted so. The Florida court next examined the allegations included in the couple’s complaint. The court found that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit focused on the administrative policies of the hospital rather than the medical care the husband received.

Next, the appeals court stated a wrongful act is not necessarily an act of medical malpractice simply because it occurred at a medical facility. Since the plaintiffs’ complaint failed to accuse the hospital of committing an error in medical judgment or skill and the purportedly wrongful act at issue occurred several months prior to the husband’s surgery, Florida’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held that the presuit notice requirements of the FMMA did not apply to the case and refused to grant the medical facility’s petition for a writ of certiorari.

If you or someone close to you was seriously harmed in by a Florida hospital or healthcare provider, a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer may be able to help. To discuss the facts of your medical malpractice or other injury case with a dedicated Miami attorney today, give the seasoned advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Holmes Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Dumigan, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2014

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