University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Immune from Lawsuits, Court Says
A recent lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial and the University of Miami has been dismissed by a Florida appeals court after the court ruled that sovereign immunity laws extend to hospital employees and their contractors, including doctors. This will prevent the medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Jackson Memorial and one of their doctors from moving forward. Lawyers may be reluctant to file similar lawsuits against Jackson Memorial because of the sovereign immunity laws. Malpractice victims may be limited in any recovery against sovereign immune entities, such as Jackson Memorial.
Qualified Immunity for Doctors
By now, you’ve likely heard the term “qualified immunity” used in terms of police officers. Essentially, it prevents tort lawsuits against government employees fulfilling their duties under the law. But what about firefighters? First responders? They also get qualified immunity, and in situations where a doctor is an employee or contractor of the state, like at Jackson Memorial, the doctor also gets qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity essentially limits negligence-based lawsuits against state employees. While the employee is protected, lawsuits can move forward against the state sometimes under certain circumstances. Traditionally, however, the government has protected its hospitals from the amount recoverable to victims in tort lawsuits.
Just recently, an act of Congress allowed lawsuits filed by disabled veterans to move forward against the VA. The question is: Who pays out these settlements? The answer: Taxpayers. The problem with government-run hospitals is that they survive regardless of whether the quality of their care is good or bad. Those who are injured by negligent doctors may face limitations in their ability to recover an award. The United States now allows lawsuits against the VA to move forward under the Federal Tort Claims Act. These lawsuits are filed against the federal government.
There are other situations where you might be able to sue a doctor from Jackson Memorial. These would include the doctor showing up drunk to your surgery or removing organs indiscriminately and without apparent purpose. In other words, the bar for these lawsuits is so high that most will never make it through.
The question the court had to answer was whether or not the doctor was considered an “employee” or “agent” of the state for the purposes of the law. The court decided that he was. Often times, doctors are not “employees” or “agents” of anyone. They are independent contractors. But in certain situations, like this one, sovereign immunity can be extended to contractors, so long as they are deemed to be “agents” of the state of Florida.
Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured by the negligent practice of medicine, call the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorneys at Masterson, Hoag & Smith today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn about our services.