Is Every Act of Negligence in a Hospital Considered Medical Malpractice?
Appellate Court Rules Psychiatric Hospital Attack Not Malpractice
In a lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial Hospital, the hospital attempted to claim that a man badly beaten in the hospital’s psychiatric ward was required to comply with the medical malpractice laws with the injury claim being pursued. Florida requires that plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits serve defendants with a timely notice to sue and proceed through a presuit period, among other requirements. Since the plaintiffs in the psychiatric ward beating did not give timely notice and comply with the presuit requirements of Chapter 766, the defendants sought to have the case dismissed.
A lower court agreed. However, the plaintiffs appealed the ruling, and the appellate court overturned the ruling of the lower court.
According to reports, a patient entered the plaintiff’s room armed with a metal handrail. The patient began beating the plaintiff. The plaintiff thereafter filed a claim against the hospital for negligence. The defense countered that the claim should actually fall under medical malpractice. Since medical malpractice lawsuits require plaintiffs to file notice with defendants and comply with a number of statutory requirements, the motion sought to have the action dismissed.
Understanding the Notice Rule as it Pertains to Medical Malpractice
In Florida, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit must serve the defendant with a notice of intent to initiate litigation. The plaintiff must then wait 90 days during an investigatory period. If the defendant denies the allegations, the plaintiff may then file a formal action. Other personal injury lawsuits do not require this “notice of intent to initiate litigation” or any type of presuit process. It is unique to medical malpractice claims in Florida.
Medical Negligence vs. Ordinary Negligence
The Florida Supreme Court recently heard a case that blurred the line between medical negligence and ordinary negligence. The plaintiff in a lawsuit was in a hospital that treated deaf patients with psychiatric conditions. When the patient became agitated, the medical staff attempted to restrain her and allegedly caused her to suffer a leg injury. The defendants claimed that this was medical malpractice. The plaintiff argued that this was ordinary negligence. The Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff finding that, because the negligence did not involve a “medical decision,” it was not considered “medical negligence.”
Ultimately, in the Jackson Memorial case, the appellate court held that the case could proceed as it did not involve medical malpractice. The court found that the injuries did not directly result from the hospital’s provision of medical care or services requiring the staff’s professional judgment or skill.
We Litigate Medical Malpractice Cases
The Tampa Bay medical malpractice attorneys at Masterson, Hoag, & Smith can help you recover damages when your doctor, hospital, or staff fails their standard of care. Call us at 727-325-2696 or contact us online for a free consultation.