Medical Negligence or Just Negligence? One Lawsuit Blurs the Edges
Ultimately, the question of whether or not a cause of action constitutes medical negligence or just simple negligence will have a major bearing on any lawsuit you file. Florida is one of several states that puts major restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits to ostensibly avoid burdening the health care industry with unnecessary costs. The theory goes that every time a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, we all pay for the cost through malpractice insurance and the cost of health care. However, statistically, there is no obvious link between malpractice lawsuits and the cost of health care.
In 2012, a Brevard County woman was taken to Wuesthoff Medical Center Rockledge. An emergency room doctor allegedly determined that she needed to be admitted to the ICU, but the hospital did not have any available beds. The woman was admitted to the hospital but not placed in the intensive-care unit. She ultimately died.
The plaintiffs contend that the doctor should have transferred the plaintiff to another hospital that had open ICU beds. Instead, he admitted her to the hospital she was staying at. The plaintiffs contend that this choice was made primarily for financial reasons. They filed a lawsuit against the hospital, the doctor, and other notable contributors of negligence.
The plaintiffs argued that this was a basic negligence case. But the defendants wanted the case dismissed because they were not served with proper notice as is required when a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed. The judge determined that because the defendants’ actions did not constitute “medical judgment”, the case should not be dismissed on those grounds. In other words, you have the absurd situation where the hospital’s attorneys want the case to be medical malpractice while the plaintiffs want the case to be simple negligence. On appeal, the judge’s initial ruling was overturned. The case was dismissed for failure to comply with the legal requirements of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The appeals court ruled that the decision to hold the patient in the hospital without an ICU bed was a medical decision and thus medical malpractice law holds sway over the proceedings.
Medical Negligence or Just Negligence?
The standard in Florida for medical negligence is whether or not a medical decision was made. It is assumed that simple negligence actions do not generally require expert witnesses. However, because medical negligence requires a jury to determine if the doctor or hospital did something wrong that deviates from the standard practice of medicine, it also requires experts to testify on behalf of the plaintiff. In this case, having a firm ruling will help create the precedent that determines the standard moving forward.
Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a doctor, hospital, or hospital staff, the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorneys at Masterson, Hoag & Smith can help you recover damages related to your medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced quality of life. Call today to learn more.