Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that was brought by a patient who was seriously injured during a surgery that was performed by the defendant doctor. Prior to the surgery, the plaintiff signed a contract containing an exculpatory clause. The case required the court to determine if the exculpatory clause was valid, and if so, whether the lower court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff required a spinal fusion surgery. She arranged to have the defendant doctor perform the surgery. However, prior to the date of the surgery, the plaintiff signed a contract containing the following clause:
As of January 1, 2003, [the defendants] will not carry any medical malpractice insurance. Being of sound mind and sound body, I hereby acknowledge this fact and agree not to [the defendants] for any reason. My reason for doing this is that I realize that [the defendants] will do the very best to take care of me according to community medical standards.
During the surgery, the plaintiff’s ureter was severed, resulting in her sustaining serious injuries. Afterwards, she filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant doctor, claiming that the care he provided fell below the required standard of care.
Before the case reached trial, the defendant doctor asked the court to dismiss the case, based on what he characterized as a valid medical release waiver. The trial court agreed, and the case was dismissed. The plaintiff then filed an appeal.
On appeal, the court determined that the lower court was incorrect in giving the exculpatory clause legal effect. The court took issue with the ambiguity of the clause and found that it was not sufficiently clear to indicate which rights the plaintiff was giving up when signing it. Specifically, the court took issue with what it characterized as a contradiction within the clause. The court explained that the first two sentences seemed as though they would validly waive a plaintiff’s right to sue, but the third sentence introduced some uncertainty. The court wondered why the third sentence was even necessary, and it ultimately determined that the clause – when read as a whole – was confusing to the point at which it would not be fair to enforce it against the plaintiff. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.
Have You Been a Victim of a Doctor’s Negligence?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a medical professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a South Florida personal injury lawsuit. The skilled attorneys at the Florida medical malpractice law firm of Cecere Santana have extensive experience representing thousands of clients in all types of personal injury claims, including medical malpractice cases. To learn more about how you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Boating Accidents in South Florida, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 1, 2017.
Florida Teen Killed in Hit-and-Run DUI Accident, Several Others Injured, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 11, 2017.