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Court Broadly Defines “Health Care Provider,” Subjecting Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case to Heightened Medical Malpractice Requirements

Earlier this month, a West Virginia appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case that occurred at a hospital. The issue the court had to decide was whether the plaintiff’s case was properly considered a medical malpractice case under state law, or whether it was a premises liability case. The significance of the distinction between the two types of cases is that medical malpractice cases are subject to additional procedural requirements.

Doctor's OfficeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff accompanied her husband to the defendant hospital for a medical check-up. The plaintiff’s husband checked in and was escorted to an examination room by a medical assistant. The medical assistant instructed the plaintiff’s husband to have a seat on the examination table and then left the room.

As the plaintiff’s husband attempted to climb onto the examination table, he fell back onto the plaintiff. Both the plaintiff and her husband sustained serious injuries, and the plaintiff’s husband died 90 days after the incident. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the hospital.

The hospital responded to the allegations by arguing that the lawsuit should have been filed as a medical malpractice lawsuit, rather than a premises liability lawsuit. Under state law, any claim involving a “health care provider” should be filed as a medical malpractice lawsuit. The hospital argued that since the injury occurred at a hospital while the plaintiff’s husband was seeking medical care, the case should properly be brought as a medical malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiff’s response was that her husband’s injuries had nothing to do with medical care and that his injury was a matter of traditional negligence.

The Court’s Decision

The court ultimately decided that the plaintiff’s case should be brought as a medical malpractice lawsuit. The court looked at the statute defining a medical malpractice case, and it determined that any lawsuit brought “related to the provision of medical care” is a medical malpractice lawsuit. The fact that the plaintiff viewed her own case as a premises liability lawsuit and filed the complaint accordingly had no effect on how courts will interpret the claim.

The Importance of the Distinction

The reason why a plaintiff may wish to avoid having their case construed as a medical malpractice case is because medical malpractice cases are subject to additional requirements. For example, in Florida, medical malpractice cases have additional notice requirements, may have shorter statutes of limitations, and may have other pre-suit requirements. If these requirements are not met, a plaintiff’s case may be dismissed, leaving the plaintiff with no means of recovery.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a slip-and-fall accident in a doctor’s office or hospital, your case may be considered a Florida medical malpractice case by the courts. It is important to keep in mind that medical malpractice cases are very specialized and have additional requirements that must be met. As the above discussion illustrates, sometimes cases that do not seem to present issues of medical negligence may still be required to meet the heightened medical malpractice requirements. The law firm of Cecere Santana has extensive experience handling all types of personal injury and medical malpractice cases. Call 800-753-5529 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Lawsuit Filed by Motorist Injured by Escaped Farm Animal, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 17, 2017.

Claims Against Florida Public Entities Are Subject to Strict Notice Requirements, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 2, 2017.

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