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Recent court ruling affects lawsuits against hospitals

Medical malpractice is complicated, even when one seeks to sue a hospital for something that arguably is not related to medical treatment. For example, at the end of last month, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals proved the complicated nature of suing hospitals and medical staff. The state appeals court ruled that a woman who tried to sue a Brevard County hospital for negligence nonetheless fell under medical negligence and had to comply with medical malpractice law.

The lawsuit was filed in 2012 after the death of a local woman. She was taken to the Brevard County hospital’s emergency room. At admission, an emergency-room doctor indicated that the woman needed to be transferred to the hospital’s intensive-care unit. However, the hospital did not have any beds available in their intensive-care unit. As a result of not being transferred to the intensive care unit, the woman’s estate (the plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit) alleged that the woman died.

The woman’s estate then filed a negligence lawsuit against the hospital. In that lawsuit, the estate argued that the decision to not admit the woman into the intensive-care unit was a financial decision, not a medical decision. As a result, the hospital argued that the case should be dismissed (thrown out of court) because the estate did not follow Florida’s pre-lawsuit notice requirements for medical malpractice lawsuit.

Originally, the circuit judge agreed with the estate that their case was not a medical malpractice lawsuit because the intensive-care unit decision was not a medical decision. The hospital appealed that holding.

The Florida three-judge panel did not agree with the circuit court. Instead, they found that the lawsuit was controlled by medical malpractice laws because the estate’s claim related directly to medical care and services.

This court ruling shows the complicated nature of suing hospitals and medical staff. This is why when one sues a hospital or medical professional, it is imperative to contact a professional immediately.

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