Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Under federal law, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) may only reach the past medical expenses portion - and not the future medical expenses portion - of a Medicaid recipient’s tort recovery to satisfy its Medicaid lien. Florida’s Medicaid program, administered by AHCA, paid $322,222 for Juan Villa’s medical care after Villa was injured in an accident. Villa settled with an alleged tortfeasor for $1 million. AHCA calculated the presumptively appropriate amount of its lien at $321,720 and asserted a lien in that amount against Villa’s settlement. An administrative law judge affirmed AHCA’s lien amount. The First District Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that both Florida law and the federal Medicaid Act allow AHCA to secure reimbursement for its Medicaid expenses from the portions of Villa’s third-party settlement recovery allocated to both past and future expenses. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the federal Medicaid Act prohibits AHCA from placing a lien on the future medical expenses portions of a Medicaid beneficiary’s third-party tort recovery to satisfy its Medicaid lien. View "Giraldo v. Agency for Health Care Administration" on Justia Law

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For a claim to sound in medical malpractice, the act from which the claim arises must be directly related to medical care or services, which require the use of professional judgment or skill. This case arose out of an action brought by Denise Townes on behalf of Cinnette Perry, and Perry, individually, against the National Deaf Academy, by and through its employees, for injuries Perry sustained while she was a resident at the Academy. Perry was injured when the Academy’s employees attempted to physically restrain her with a Therapeutic Aggression Control Techniques (TACT) hold. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Academy, concluding Townes alleged medical malpractice claims, rather than negligence claims, and failed to comply with the medical malpractice presuit requirements. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Townes’s claims sounded in ordinary negligence because the employees’ actions were “not for treatment or diagnosis of any condition” and did not require medical skill or judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Townes’s claims did not arise from medical malpractice because the administration of a TACT hold was not directly related to medical care or services. View "National Deaf Academy, LLC v. Townes" on Justia Law

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The comparative fault statute, Fla. Stat. 768.81, does not apply to Engle progeny cases in which the jury finds for the plaintiff on intentional torts such that the compensatory damage awards in those cases are not subject to reduction. The instant case was an Engle progeny case. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant. The jury found that Plaintiff was a member in the Engle class because her husband died from lung cancer caused by his addiction to cigarettes and awarded Plaintiff $10.5 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages. The trial court reduced the jury’s compensatory award by Plaintiff’s husband’s comparative fault and entered final judgment awarding Plaintiff $7.87 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages. The court of appeal concluded that the punitive damages award was unconstitutionally excessive and rejected Plaintiff’s cross-appeal regarding the trial court’s reduction of compensatory damages, finding that Plaintiff had waived the intentional tort exception by arguing comparative fault of the smoker to the jury. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) Plaintiff did not waive the intentional tort exception; (2) the punitive damages award was constitutional; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion for remittitur. View "Schoeff v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Stand Your Ground law does not confer civil liability immunity to a criminal defendant based upon an immunity determination in the criminal case. In reaction to Plaintiff attacking him without provocation, Defendant struck Plaintiff’s face with a cocktail glass, resulting in permanent loss of sight in Plaintiff’s left eye. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging battery and negligence. Defendant asserted the affirmative defense of immunity under the Stand Your Ground Law. Defendant then filed a petition for writ of prohibition, arguing that the circuit circuit lacked jurisdiction over him based upon the circuit court’s conclusion that Defendant was immune under the Stand Your Ground Law in a criminal case involving the same facts and parties. The court of appeal granted the petition, ruling that Fla. Stat. 776.032 guarantees a single Stand Your Ground immunity determination for both criminal and civil actions. The Supreme Court quashed the court of appeal’s decision, holding that the Stand Your Ground law does not confer civil liability immunity to a criminal defendant who is determined to be immune from prosecution in the criminal case. View "Kumar v. Patel" on Justia Law

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A party that has had judgment entered against it is not entitled to seek equitable subrogation from a subsequent tortfeasor when the judgment has not fully been sustained. Benjamin Hintz was injured when his scooter collided with an automobile driven by Emily Boozer. The car belonged to Boozer’s father, Otto, who was insured by Allstate. Petitioner, guardian of Hintz’s property, filed suit against the Boozers. The jury found the Boozers liable for Hintz’s injuries, ultimately awarding Petitioner $11,179,189. Allstate paid $1.1 million, its policy limit, but the Boozers did not pay the remainder of the judgment. Following the personal injury verdict, Petitioner filed a separate medical malpractice suit against medical provider defendants, alleging that Hintz’s injuries were exacerbated by medical negligence. Allstate and Emily Boozer filed complaints claiming they were entitled to equitable subrogation from the medical provider defendants. The trial court dismissed the complaints with prejudice. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to reinstate the dismissal of the equitable subrogation claims, holding that the Fifth District erred in holding that Respondents could assert claims for contingent equitable subrogation without first paying the judgment in full. View "Holmes Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Heather Worley fell in the parking lot of Central Florida Young Men’s Christian Association, Inc. (YMCA). Worley's counsel filed a negligence suit against YMCA on behalf of Worley, seeking to recover damages, including the costs of her treatment from certain healthcare providers. During discovery, YMCA sought information as to whether Worley was referred to the relevant treating physicians by her counsel. The trial court required Worley to produce the information. Worley filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Fifth District court of Appeal, arguing that the trial court order required the production of information protected by the attorney-client privilege. The district court denied the certiorari petition. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Fifth District, holding that the attorney-client privilege protects a party from being required to disclose that his or her attorney referred the party to a physician for treatment. View "Worley v. Central Florida Young Men's Christian Ass’n" on Justia Law

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Respondent, the representative for the estate of Phil Felice Marotta, filed an action as an Engle progeny plaintiff against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, an Engle defendant, asserting that Marotta’s addiction to Reynolds’ cigarettes caused his death by lung cancer. The jury found Reynolds liable on Respondent’s strict liability claim and awarded total compensatory damages of $6 million. Reynolds appealed the final judgment, and Marotta cross-appealed the trial court’s decision to preclude the jury from considering punitive damages on the product liability claim. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. The district court then certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered the rephrased question in the negative, holding that federal law does not implicitly preempt state law tort claims of strict liability and negligence by Engle progeny plaintiffs. The Court approved the Fourth District’s decision related to the preemption issue but quashed the decision below to the extent that it held that Respondent was precluded from seeking punitive damages. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Marotta" on Justia Law

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Richard and Jason Debrincat filed the original civil proceeding against a group of defendants. Stephen Fischer was later added as a party defendant, but the Debrincats subsequently dropped Fischer from the underlying proceeding. Fischer then brought an action against the Debrincats for malicious prosecution. The Debrincats moved for summary judgment, arguing that the litigation privilege afforded them immunity for their conduct of joining Fischer as a defendant in the underlying lawsuit. The trial court granted summary judgment and entered a final judgment for the Debrincats. The Fourth District reversed, holding that th litigation privilege cannot be applied to bar the filing of a malicious prosecution claim. The Supreme Court approved the Fourth District’s decision, holding that the litigation privilege does not bar the filing of a claim for malicious prosecution that was based on adding a party defendant to a civil suit. View "Debrincat v. Fischer" on Justia Law

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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

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Respondents - four female students and their parents - filed a complaint against their teacher and the Palm Beach County School Board, alleging that the teacher sexually molested the children and that the School Board was negligent. Respondents later filed a third amended complaint adding a claim for violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The School Board filed a motion to dismiss the Title IX claim, arguing that it was barred by the statute of limitations because it id not relate back to the filing of the original complaint. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claim. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the Title IX claim did, in fact, relate back to the original negligence claims. The Supreme Court approved of the Fourth District’s decision and disapproved the line of cases establishing a bright-line rule that an amendment asserting a new cause of action cannot relate back to the filing of the original complaint, holding that Respondents’ Title IX claim did not relate back to Respondents’ original pleading. View "Palm Beach County School Board v. Janie Doe 1" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury