In Rodriguez v. Heart of Florida Health Center, Inc., the estate of a deceased woman filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital and a doctor in Marion County, Florida. According to the complaint, the woman’s cancer diagnosis was seriously delayed as a result of the physician’s negligence. As a result, the estate sought damages for the decedent’s pain, suffering, disability, emotional anguish, medical expenses, and more. After the lawsuit was filed, the defendants removed the case to the Middle District of Florida based on diversity of citizenship.
Next, the United States filed a motion to substitute the government as the defendant in the case. According to the U.S., the hospital and the doctor in her capacity as an employee were immune from suit because the facility enjoyed federal support. The U.S. also filed a motion to dismiss the medical malpractice lawsuit, due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In its motion to dismiss, the government argued the estate’s only remedy was a case brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The U.S. also asserted that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the estate failed to exhaust all administrative remedies as required by the statute.
First, the federal court said the exclusive remedy for filing a tort claim against a facility that is supported by the Federally Supported Health Centers Assistance Act (“FSHCAA”) is the FTCA. Under the FTCA, the government waives its right to sovereign immunity for personal injury or wrongful death claims that were caused by a federal worker. In its motions, the U.S. argued the hospital defendant was a federally supported facility under the FSHCAA. In addition, the government stated the defendants were acting within the scope of their federal employment when the decedent’s claim arose. Because of this, the U.S. said the defendants were employees of the government, and any lawsuits against them should have been filed according to the provisions included in the FTCA.
After holding the U.S. was the proper defendant in the lawsuit, the Middle District of Florida turned to the requirements enumerated in the FTCA. According to the federal court, the FTCA provided the exclusive remedy in the case. The court then found that sovereign immunity is waived only after a plaintiff exhausts all administrative remedies described in § 2675(a).
Next, the court stated the decedent’s estate admitted it did not provide timely notice to the appropriate federal agency before filing its case. Although the estate argued this notice requirement was waived when the defendants failed to respond to the estate’s lawsuit, the Middle District of Florida disagreed. The court stated the jurisdictional requirement enumerated in § 2675 cannot be waived.
Since the estate failed to exhaust its administrative remedies prior to filing its medical malpractice lawsuit, the Middle District of Florida granted the government’s request to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and stated the estate had the option to refile its case after complying with the requirements of the FTCA.
If you or someone close to you was injured by a Florida health care provider’s negligent act, you should speak with a seasoned medical malpractice attorney who can help you safeguard your rights. To schedule a free consultation with a skillful Miami personal injury lawyer, contact Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. online or call us today at (305) 448-8585.
Rodriguez v. Heart of Florida Health Center, Inc., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015
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