Tampa Court Holds Diversity Jurisdiction is Proper in Medical Malpractice Case Where Parties Were Fraudulently Joined

In Byrnes v. Small, a Florida woman was allegedly injured in 2006 by a medical product that was implanted into her spine in a manner that was not approved by the nation’s Food and Drug Administration. In 2014, the allegedly injured woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against the company that designed, manufactured, and distributed the product that allegedly harmed her, her doctor, and his employer in a Florida state court. Soon afterward, the product manufacturer removed the woman’s case to the Middle District of Florida in Tampa based on diversity jurisdiction.

Federal diversity jurisdiction is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. Section 1332(a) when the parties to a lawsuit are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. In general, the party seeking removal to federal court must demonstrate that federal jurisdiction was justified at the time the case was filed. According to the medical product manufacturer, the physician and his employer were fraudulently joined in the lawsuit in an effort to defeat federal jurisdiction. The manufacturer argued that such joinder was not permitted because the statute of limitations for filing a case against each of the other two defendants had passed. The manufacturer argued before the court that this meant the citizenship of the non-diverse defendants should be ignored. In response, the allegedly injured woman claimed the case should be remanded because the medical product manufacturer failed to meet its burden of demonstrating diversity.

The Tampa court first addressed the issue of fraudulent joinder by stating that, although any uncertainties must be construed in the plaintiff’s favor, all allegations must be supported by the facts of the case. Next, the federal court addressed the statute of limitations. According to the Middle District of Florida, Section 95.11(4)(b) of the Florida Statutes requires that a medical malpractice case be brought within two years, except in cases of fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation. Although the allegedly injured woman argued that she was prevented from discovering her harm due to concealment and fraud, the federal court disagreed. After examining the facts of the case, the court found that the woman’s medical malpractice claims against her surgeon and his employer were time-barred.

The Tampa court also dismissed the woman’s claim that she was entitled to toll the statute of limitations to seven years because she failed to file her lawsuit within the applicable tolling period. After that, the court stated the injured woman’s argument that the common defenses rule required remand was unpersuasive. Although the rule is not applicable in the Eleventh Circuit, the Middle District of Florida held that it would not apply to the case at hand even if it were good law. Finally, the Tampa federal court refused to award the allegedly hurt woman costs or attorneys’ fees because her motion for remand was without merit.

Since the physician and his employer were fraudulently joined, the Middle District of Florida in Tampa found that diversity jurisdiction was proper and refused to remand the case.

If you were harmed as a result of medical malpractice in Florida, you may be entitled to recover financial compensation for your harm. To discuss the facts of your case with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer today, do not hesitate to call the hardworking attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Byrnes v. Small, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2014

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