Justia Florida Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Medical Malpractice
North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan
The caps on personal injury noneconomic damages in medical negligence actions provided in Fla. Stat. 766.118 violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution.This case arose after complications from surgery left Appellee severely injured. After trial, Appellee’s noneconomic damages were capped by Fla. Stat. 766.118(2) and (3). The Fourth District Court of Appeal directed the trial court to reinstate the total damages award as found by the jury, concluding that section 766.118 was invalid. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the caps on noneconomic damages in sections 766.118(2) and (3) arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer drastic injuries; and (2) there is no rational relationship between the personal injury noneconomic damage caps in section 766.118 and alleviating a purported medical malpractice insurance criss. View "North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan" on Justia Law
Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley. v. Florida
In 1997, Aaron sustained a catastrophic brain injury at birth due to the negligence of employees at Lee Memorial. The family retained the law firm, under a contingency fee agreement providing for payment of 40 percent of any recovery if a lawsuit was filed, plus costs, and stating that if "one of the parties to pay my claim for damages is a governmental agency, I understand that Federal and Florida Law may limit the amount of attorney fees ... in that event, I understand that the fees owed ... shall be the amount provided by law.” A jury awarded the child $28.3 million, the mother $1.34 million, and the father $1 million. Because the hospital was an independent special district of the state, the court enforced the sovereign immunity damage limitations and entered a judgment for $200,000, which was affirmed. The firm pursued a two-year lobbying effort to secure a claims bill from the Legislature. In 2012 the Legislature passed a claims bill, directing Lee Memorial to pay $10 million, with an additional $5 million to be paid in annual installments to a special needs trust for Aaron, stating that payment of fees and costs from those funds shall not exceed $100,000. No funds were awarded for the parents. The firm petitioned the guardianship court to approve a $2.5 million for attorneys’ fees and costs. The court denied the request. On appeal, the district court affirmed. The Supreme Court of Florida reversed, holding that the fee limitation in the claims bill is unconstitutional and may not stand when such a limitation impairs a preexisting contract. View "Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley. v. Florida" on Justia Law
Charles. v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc.
Florida Constitution Article X, section 25 (Amendment 7), adopted by citizen initiative in 2004, provides patients “a right to have access to any records made or received in the course of business by a health care facility or provider relating to any adverse medical incident.” “Adverse medical incident” includes “any other act, neglect, or default of a health care facility or health care provider that caused or could have caused injury to or death of a patient.” Amendment 7 gives medical malpractice plaintiffs access to any adverse medical incident record, including incidents involving other patients [occurrence reports], created by health care providers. The Federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, however, creates a voluntary, confidential, non-punitive system of data sharing of health care errors for the purpose of improving medical care and patient safety, 42 U.S.C. 299b-21(6), and establishes a protected legal environment in which providers can share data “both within and across state lines, without the threat that the information will be used against [them].” The Supreme Court of Florida reversed a holding that Amendment 7 was preempted. The Federal Act was never intended as a shield to the production of documents required by Amendment 7. The health care provider or facility cannot shield documents not privileged under state law by virtue of its unilateral decision of where to place the documents under the federal voluntary reporting system. View "Charles. v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc." on Justia Law
Dockswell v. Bethesda Memorial Hospital, Inc.
After undergoing surgery at Bethesda Memorial Hospital, it was discovered that a drainage tube had been left inside Plaintiff. Plaintiff and his wife filed suit against the hospital, alleging negligent removal and negligent inspection. The trial court denied Plaintiffs’ request for an instruction that would have created a presumption of negligence and shifted the burden to the hospital to disprove liability. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that when direct evidence of negligence exists, the plaintiff is not entitled to the statutory presumption arising from Fla. Stat. 766.102(3)(b). The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fourth District, holding that the foreign-body presumption of negligence set forth in section 766.102(3)(b) is mandatory when a foreign body is found inside the patient’s body, regardless of whether direct evidence exists of negligence or who the responsible party is for the foreign body’s presence. View "Dockswell v. Bethesda Memorial Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law
Hernandez v. Crespo
Lualhati Crespo and her husband filed a complaint against Petitioners, Dr. Eileen Hernandez and Women’s Care Florida, after their son was delivered stillborn. Petitioners filed a motion to stay proceedings and compel binding arbitration pursuant to a medical malpractice arbitration agreement between Mrs. Crespo and Petitioners. The Fifth District Court of Appeal concluded that the agreement was void as against public policy. The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that the arbitration agreement was void and violated public policy because it included statutory terms favorable only to Petitioners, thereby disrupting the balance of incentives the Legislature carefully crafted to encourage arbitration. Remanded. View "Hernandez v. Crespo" on Justia Law
Chirillo v. Granicz
Robert Granicz, as personal representative of his wife's estate, filed a medical malpractice action asserting that her primary care physician, Dr. Joseph S. Chirillo, Jr., breached his duty of care in treating her, which resulted in her suicide. The decedent had a history of depression. The trial court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment, finding that Dr. Chirillo did not have a legal duty to prevent the decedent's suicide. Relying on Florida case law and Fla. Stat. 766.102(1), the Second District reversed, agreeing with Granicz that the trial court improperly characterized the duty Dr. Chirillo owed to the decedent. The Second District found that Granicz had provided sufficient expert testimony regarding the standard of care to establish that Dr. Chirillo owed the decedent a general, legal duty - not a duty to prevent her suicide - thereby precluding summary judgment. The district court also found that based on the evidence, a jury question still remained as to proximate cause. The court approved the Second District’s decision, reversing and remanding the case to the trial court with instructions to proceed to trial. The court disapproved the decision of the First District in Lawlor v. Orlando as an improper determination of duty. View "Chirillo v. Granicz" on Justia Law
Miles v. Weingrad
Plaintiff, joined by her husband, filed a lawsuit alleging that she suffered permanent injuries due to Defendant’s surgical malpractice. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiff and awarded, along with economic damages, noneconomic damages for pain and suffering amounting to $1.45 million. Defendant moved to reduce the award of noneconomic damages to $500,000 pursuant to Fla. Stat. 766.118(2), which became effective after Plaintiff underwent the disputed surgical procedure. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that the statute was not retroactive. The Third District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that it was constitutionally permissible to retroactively apply section 766.118 because Plaintiff had no vested right to a particular damage award and thus suffered no due process violation. On remand, the trial court entered a judgment for Plaintiff based on the $500,000 statutory cap on noneconomic damages. The Third District affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the Third District’s decision in Miles II, disapproved Miles I, and remanded with instructions that the original final judgment be reinstated, holding (1) the Court had jurisdiction to hear this appeal; and (2) generally, a litigant’s substantive and vested rights may not be infringed upon by the retroactive application of a substantive statute. View "Miles v. Weingrad" on Justia Law
Pratt v. Weiss
Plaintiff filed suit against medical malpractice action against multiple defendants, including FMC Hospital, Ltd., d/b/a Florida Medical Center, and FMC Medical, Inc., d/b/a Florida Medical Center. A proposed settlement offer was served upon Plaintiff, but Plaintiff did not accept the offer. A jury subsequently returned a verdict adverse to Plaintiff, and the trial court entered final judgment in favor of Defendants. Thereafter, Defendants filed a motion for attorney’s fees and costs. Plaintiff opposed the motion, asserting that the entities were joint offerors and that the proposal was invalid because it failed to apportion the amount offered as required by Fla. Stat. 768.79 and Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.442. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that there was only a single offeror - Florida Medical Center - and therefore, apportionment of the amount offered was not required. The district court affirmed, concluding that because the offer was made on behalf of the single hospital entity allegedly responsible for Plaintiff’s injury, the settlement proposal complied with the statute and rule. The Supreme Court quashed the district court’s decision, holding that the offer constituted a joint proposal and, under a strict construction of section 768.79 and rule 1.442, apportionment of the settlement amount was required. View "Pratt v. Weiss" on Justia Law
Special v. W. Boca Med. Ctr.
After Susan Special died following the delivery of her son, Frank Special, Susan’s husband and the personal representative of his wife’s estate, filed a negligence lawsuit against Dr. Ivo Baux, Baux’s related corporations, and West Boca Medical Center, Inc. for negligence. After a jury trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the defendants. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that alleged errors on the part of the trial court “did not contribute to the verdict” and were therefore harmless. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding (1) the test for harmless error requires the beneficiary of the error to prove that there is no reasonable possibility that the error complained of contributed to the verdict; and (2) there was a reasonable possibility in this case that the errors by the trial court contributed to the verdict. View "Special v. W. Boca Med. Ctr." on Justia Law
Ampuero-Martinez v. Cedars Healthcare Group
Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice wrongful death action against Cedars Healthcare Group, a facility at which Plaintiff’s father was a patient when he died, and other health care providers. Plaintiff sought records of adverse medical incidents from Cedars pursuant to Fla. Const. art. X, 25, which guarantees patients the right to “have access to any records made or received in the course of business by a health care facility or provider relating to any adverse medical incident.” The trial court overruled Cedars’ objection to the discovery request. Cedars subsequently petitioned the district court for a writ of certiorari. Citing to Fla. Stat. 381.028(7)(a), the district court granted the petition on the ground that the request to produce asked for “records of adverse medical incidents involving patients other than the plaintiff” but did not limit the production of those records to the same or substantially similar condition as the patient requesting access. Prior to the district court’s decision, the Supreme Court, in Florida Hospital Waterman, Inc. v. Buster, declared section 381.028(7)(a) invalid. Accordingly, the Court quashed the decision of the district court in this case and remanded for reconsideration pursuant to Buster. View "Ampuero-Martinez v. Cedars Healthcare Group" on Justia Law