Articles Posted in Medical Negligence Issues

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida premises liability lawsuit that arose after the plaintiff fell off an examination table in the defendant doctor’s office. The court was tasked with determining if the plaintiff’s lawsuit should be dismissed because she failed to comply with the applicable statute of limitations. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was not a “medical malpractice” lawsuit as defined by the statute and that her claim need not comply with the stricter statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits.

Doctor's OfficeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was seeing the defendant doctor so that he could remove a catheter. When the doctor came into the examination room, he instructed the plaintiff to climb onto the examination table. He then pulled out a stool so that she could more easily get atop the table. The plaintiff safely climbed onto the table, and the doctor performed the procedure without any complications.

After the procedure, the doctor told the plaintiff to go to the front desk and make a follow-up appointment the following week. The doctor then left the examination room without pulling out the stool to help the plaintiff descend off the table. The plaintiff attempted to get off the table but fell as she did so.

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Before a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit proceeds to trial, the parties go through the pre-trial discovery process, in which each side requests information of the other side that they believe will be relevant in the case. While most relevant material is discoverable, historically some categories of evidence have not been discoverable because they fit within a privilege.

Old FilesIn 2004, Florida citizens amended their constitution, adding 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.” This has come to be known as Amendment 7. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court issued a written opinion clarifying how far Amendment 7 reaches.

The Facts

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant doctors after her bile duct was severed during a routine medical procedure. Pursuant to Amendment 7, the plaintiff requested a number of her medical records relating to the medical procedure. The defendants claimed that the medical records were exempt from the rules of discovery, citing several privileges.

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Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a case that will likely have great implications across the State. The case involved allegations of Florida medical malpractice brought by the wife of a man who died while in the defendant doctor’s care. The issue involved a discovery rule that allowed for a defendant doctor to compel the plaintiff to release the names of previous health care providers and allowed for the defendant to arrange meetings with the providers without the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney present.

Medical RecordsUltimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff had the ability to assert her husband’s right to privacy to challenge the discovery rules and that the rules were unconstitutional because they burdened the plaintiff’s right to access the court system.

The Discovery Rules

The discovery rules at issue allowed for informal discovery, whereby the defendant could request certain information from the plaintiff. Among the information that could be requested by the defendant were the names of all previous medical care providers. A 2013 amendment to the rules also allowed for the defendant to arrange ex parte meetings with the medical care providers. The plaintiff challenged the aspect of the rules that allowed for ex parte meetings.

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Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida medical malpractice case that required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case was timely under the applicable statute of limitations. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case was properly filed within the applicable statute of limitations, and a lower court’s finding to the contrary was reversed. As a result, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Chest X-RayThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a patient of the defendant radiologist. In 2008, the plaintiff underwent a mammogram, and the defendant interpreted the results. Despite finding a nodule that he knew at the time was likely to be cancerous, the defendant did not inform the plaintiff or her primary care doctor.

Later that year, the defendant’s office called the plaintiff, requesting she come in for a follow-up. Again, no mention was made of the nodule and the possibility that it was cancerous. It was not until 2010, following a subsequent mammogram, that the plaintiff realized she had breast cancer. By that time, the cancer had metastasized and spread to her bones. The plaintiff’s breast cancer was successfully treated with chemotherapy, but the metastatic cancer in her bones continued to progress.

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Earlier this month, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a written opinion in a Florida personal injury case brought by a former smoker who had developed lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The plaintiff’s case was filed against the manufacturer of the cigarette brand that she used to smoke and claimed that her addiction to cigarettes was what caused her disease.

AshtrayThe case presented the court with the task of determining whether the trial court’s conflicting evidentiary rulings regarding the plaintiff’s expert warranted a new trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trial court’s error likely did have an effect on the jury’s decision to find for the defendant and ordered a new trial to take place.

The Lower Court’s Rulings

The lower court first determined that the plaintiff’s treating pulmonologist was not qualified to testify that the plaintiff was addicted to cigarettes. In a subsequent ruling, the lower court then allowed the same pulmonologist to respond to questioning from the defense about the plaintiff’s ability to quit smoking. The pulmonologist explained that the plaintiff “could quit when she was sufficiently motivated to do so.”

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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.

ContractThe 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.

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Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion in a medical malpractice case in which the plaintiff claimed that the defendant negligently left a four-inch piece of drainage tube in his body after a surgery. The court ultimately held that the statute stating that a foreign body left inside a patient’s body is prima facie evidence of negligence should apply to the case, even though the plaintiff knew exactly who left the tube in him.

Medical SuppliesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was admitted into the defendant hospital for a colon resection surgery. During the surgery, several feet of drainage tube were inserted into his body to help his body eliminate fluids after the surgery. A few days after the surgery, a nurse came to remove the tubing before the plaintiff was discharged. She pulled the tube out, as is normal practice, and the plaintiff was sent home.

A few months later, the plaintiff noticed pain in the area of where the tubing had been, and it was discovered that there were approximately four inches of tube still in his body. A subsequent surgery was required to remove the tubing. The plaintiff then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital where the original surgery and tube-removal took place.

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There are thousands of cases filed in Florida courts each month. In fact, so many cases are filed in Florida that the system would get bogged down if each case resulted in a jury trial. To help whittle down the number of cases that ultimately go to trial, Florida courts have enacted a series of procedural rules to ensure that only the most diligent plaintiffs and most meritorious cases are allowed to proceed to trial.

Law BookDepending on the type of case and the named defendants, there may be dozens of applicable rules that must be strictly followed. A plaintiff’s failure to follow these rules can result in the court refusing to hear the case until the violation is remedied. In some cases, a court will dismiss a plaintiff’s case outright, preventing the accident victim from obtaining relief. A recent opinion from an Ohio appellate court illustrates how an unknowing plaintiff can end up violating court rules despite the best of intentions.

Davis v. Blaylock:  The Facts

Davis’ father passed away while at a local medical center. At the time of his death, Davis’ father was being treated by several doctors. Davis believed that her father’s death was caused by the negligence of the doctors who were caring for him. In hopes of seeking compensation for her loss, she filed a series of wrongful death lawsuits.

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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.

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Earlier this year, one state’s supreme court had the occasion to discuss and adopt the continuing course of treatment doctrine in a medical malpractice case. In the case Parr v. Rosenthal, the court adopted the doctrine, which holds that a medical malpractice claim does not accrue for the purposes of the statute of limitations until the defendant doctor stops treating the plaintiff for the condition giving rise to the lawsuit. However, the plaintiffs were ultimately unsuccessful in their case because, although the court adopted the doctrine, the court also determined that the plaintiffs’ case was not a proper application of the doctrine.

Alarm ClockThe Facts

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young boy who was born with a large bump on the back of his leg. After several years of trying to figure out what the bump was and whether it was potentially harmful to their son, it was diagnosed as a desmoid tumor. The plaintiffs were referred to the defendant doctor who was experienced using a novel technique called radio frequency ablation to treat tumors, however, he had never used the technique on a desmoid tumor.

The plaintiffs agreed to have the defendant operate on their son. However, during the operation the boy was badly burned and the procedure could not be completed. The boy was treated by other doctors within the defendant doctor’s practice group, but the defendant was not involved in any of the boy’s follow-up care. Ultimately, the boy’s leg became infected and he needed to have his leg amputated above the knee.

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