Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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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

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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

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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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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

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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

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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

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Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action against a dentist (Dentist) and his dental practice, alleging that Dentist's failure to diagnose and treat his dental conditions resulted in a bone infection and a worsening of his dental problems, which caused severe and permanent physical and emotional damage. In preparation for trial, there was an ex parte predeposition conference conducted between Plaintiff's nonparty treating physician and counsel provided by Defendant's insurance company. Plaintiff contended that the ex parte meeting violated the State's physician-patient confidentiality statute as delineated in Fla. Stat. 456.057(8). The Supreme Court held that section 456.057 prohibits such meetings and quashed the decision of the Fourth District holding otherwise. In particular, the Court held that an ex parte meeting such as the one attempted here is prohibited irrespective of whether the attorney and physician claim they will discuss only non-privileged matters. View "Hasan v. Garvar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a negligence action against Dr. Mary Jane Benson, Dr. George C. Rees, and West Florida Hospital, alleging that the doctors were negligent in rendering medical care to her, which resulted in excessive liver damage. Plaintiff's claim against the hospital were based on both vicarious liability for Dr. Benson's negligence, as well as liability for the direct negligence in granting medical staff privileges to both doctors, which led to the medical care and procedures performed. The court approved the First District's decision because it held that the trial court correctly ordered the disclosure of a blank application for medical staff privileges. Section 381.0287(b)1 impermissible attempted to limit the disclosure requirements of article X, section 25 of the Florida Constitution (Amendment 7), and the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 (HCQIA), 42 U.S.C. 11101 et seq., did not preempt Amendment 7. In accordance with the court's decision, the court disapproved of the decision of the Fourth District in Tenet Healthsystem Hospitals, Inc. v. Taitel and its contrary holding that a blank form used by a hospital for nurse credentialing was confidential and protected by disclosure. View "West Florida Regional Medical Center, Inc., etc. v. See, et al." on Justia Law