Court Upholds Medical Malpractice Immunity Law
In Florida, the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity limits the amount of damages recoverable in a medical malpractice claim against certain government and quasi-governmental entities. The 3rd District Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor the University of Miami rejecting constitutional arguments against a 2011 law that limits aggrieved parties in the amount of damages that can be recovered against medical-school doctors. The ruling extends the concept of sovereign immunity.
After the law was passed, the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine agreed to provide services to Jackson Memorial—a move that was facilitated by Miami-Dade County Public Health Trust, the government agency that is responsible for operating Jackson Memorial.
The Lawsuits that Led to the Decision
The appellate court’s decision was spurred by two malpractice lawsuits – one involving the death of a newborn and another involving a man who lost his sight in one eye.
In the case of the newborn, the mother, Latoya Bean, was admitted to the hospital after showing signs of a condition called preeclampsia. The plaintiffs alleged that the child died due to a delay in treatment of the preeclampsia. The treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the child immediately. In this case, the doctors opted for a c-section, and the child died upon delivery.
The other case involved a man who was having a benign tumor removed from his face. The surgery was alleged to have caused blindness in one eye.
Both of the lawsuits were summarily dismissed due to sovereign immunity protections in place for Jackson Memorial.
The Plaintiff’s Arguments
Lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the 2011 law expanded sovereign immunity in such a manner that it denied injured parties their constitutional rights to due process, equal protection under the law, and access to the court. The plaintiffs further argued that the law unfairly extended sovereign immunity protection to those who were not “state actors” nor under the state’s control. In addition, they argued that the state itself would not be liable in these lawsuits, so the law essentially extended state protection to private entities.
However, the court determined that the sovereign immunity protections extend to a state-run entities involved in these actions.
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When a doctor or hospital is guilty of negligent care, you can recover damages for your injuries. Give the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorney at Masterson & Hoag, P.A. a call at 727-325-2696 or contact us online for a free consultation.