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Florida Supreme Court Discusses When a Case Must Comply with the State’s “Onerous” Medical Malpractice Requirements

In Florida, lawmakers have determined that lawsuits bringing claims of medical malpractice must comply with additional requirements that are not necessary in Florida personal injury cases bringing claims under a traditional theory of negligence. In so doing, lawmakers put courts in the position of determining which cases should be classified as “medical malpractice cases” and thus be subject to the additional requirements.

A recent decision issued by the Florida Supreme Court provides some much-needed guidance for how courts should sort out personal injury cases that lie on the line between traditional negligence and medical malpractice.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the aunt of a student at a school for the deaf. The student was seriously injured when she was placed in a hold by staff and taken to the ground after staff determined that she was being non-compliant. As a result of her injuries, the student’s left leg was amputated below the knee.

The student’s adult aunt brought a lawsuit on behalf of the student against the school, claiming that the staff at the school was negligent in how they treated the student. The school, however, asked the court to dismiss the case against it, claiming that the case was properly considered as one of medical malpractice, and that since the plaintiff failed to comply with the state’s pre-suit requirements for medical malpractice cases, it should be dismissed.

In support of its claim, the school presented testimony that the type of hold used on the plaintiff was “a style of physical intervention for the mentally ill” and that it was necessary to protect the student as well as staff. The court agreed with the school and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff then appealed.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court decided to hear this particular case because there was confusion among the lower state courts regarding when a case should be considered one of medical malpractice. The court began by noting that the statutory definition for a medical malpractice claim is one “arising out of the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical care or services.” Additionally, in order to be considered a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must allege a “breach of the prevailing professional standard of care.”

The court then reviewed several cases from the lower courts before favoring a narrower interpretation of what constitutes medical malpractice. The court explained that the legislature did not intend for every case involving a health care provider to sound in medical malpractice. Thus, the court concluded that “only those claims that arise out of an action or inaction directly related to medical care or services, which require the use of professional judgment or skill, sound in medical malpractice.”

Turning to this case, the court explained that the plaintiff’s complaint does not require the assistance of expert testimony and did not arise out of the provision of medical care or services, so the plaintiff should not have been required to comply with the “onerous” medical malpractice requirements.

Have You Been Injured in a Health Care Setting?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a health care setting, you may have a claim for financial compensation. The dedicated South Florida personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Cecere Santana have decades of experience handling a wide range of Florida injury cases, including those occurring in the health care setting, such as slip-and-fall accidents at doctor’s offices or hospitals. To learn more about how we can help you recover compensation for your injuries, call 800-753-5529 to schedule your free consultation today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

South Florida Accident Involving Dump Truck Claims Two Lives, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, May 3, 2018.

Hit-and-Run Driver Arrested Two Years After Fatal Accident?, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published April 19, 2018.

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