Florida Court Discusses Proximate Cause Requirement in Recent Medical Malpractice Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case discussing one of the most complex and contested elements in Florida medical malpractice cases. The case required the court to explain the causation requirement as it applies to Florida medical malpractice claims. Ultimately, the court remanded the case to the lower court based on the lower court’s application of an incorrect legal principle.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff noticed a large mass on the back of her head and went to her primary care doctor for an evaluation. That doctor determined that the mass was a tumor and referred the plaintiff to a surgeon. The surgeon diagnosed the mass as an osteosarcoma, and determined that it was close to pressing upon her brain. Thus, the surgeon recommended the plaintiff undergo surgery to de-bulk the tumor. However, before he ordered the surgery, the surgeon ordered several tests to make sure the plaintiff’s body could handle the surgery.

Evidently, the test results came back abnormal. However, the plaintiff’s primary care physician cleared her for surgery nonetheless. On the morning of the surgery, the plaintiff’s anesthesiologist was running late, so she was seen by another anesthesiologist (the defendant) who quickly reviewed the plaintiff’s test results. However, the defendant only saw some of the abnormal results. The defendant determined that, from what he saw, everything seemed fine. In the middle of the pre-anesthesia interview, the plaintiff’s anesthesiologist showed up, and began the evaluation from the beginning.

During the surgery, the plaintiff suffered from cardiac arrest and died. Her estate filed a wrongful death claim against all the doctors involved in the surgery, including the defendant anesthesiologist who started, but did not finish, the pre-anesthesia interview. The plaintiff argued he was negligent for failing to fully review her test results, for failing to recognize the dangers of proceeding with the abnormal test results, and for failing to inform the surgeons of the abnormal test results.

The defendant argued that any actions or omission of his were not the cause of the plaintiff’s death, pointing to the fact that the actual anesthesiologist began the pre-anesthesia interview anew when he arrived. The trial court agreed, finding that the defendant’s actions, even if they were negligent, were not the “primary” cause of the plaintiff’s death, and dismissed the defendant from the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff appealed.

On Appeal

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s case against the defendant. The court explained that to establish causation, a plaintiff is only required to show that a defendant’s acts or omissions “substantially” contributed to their injuries. The court explained that the trial court, applied the wrong legal standard when it held that the defendant’s actions were not the “primary” cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Thus, the court remanded the case back to the trial court so that the court could determine whether the defendant’s actions were a “substantial” cause of the plaintiff’s death.

Have You Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to inadequate medical treatment, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit. At the South Florida personal injury and wrongful death law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims across the state in medical malpractice cases. With our decades of collective experience, you can feel at ease that you are in good hands. To learn more, call 877-477-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Establishing Liability in Florida Swimming Pool Accidents, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 25, 2019.

Can a Court Exclude Relevant Evidence from a Florida Personal Injury Trial?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 7, 2019.

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