Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Not every injury that occurs at the hands of a medical professional or inside a medical institution is considered medical malpractice. The Florida Supreme Court once again made this distinction in a recent case when asked to consider whether the trial court made the right decision in tossing a negligence lawsuit for failure to meet stringent medical malpractice lawsuit requirements, or whether the appeals court was right for reversing the lower court to allow the matter to proceed.medical malpractice attorney

Negligence versus medical malpractice is an important distinction because if a hospital or health care professional is successful in having the case designated as sounding in medical malpractice, plaintiffs must then abide by the state’s complex medical malpractice statutory schema, as outlined in F.S. 766.106. This includes specifications for pre-suit notice (including sending a copy of the complaint to the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration), to determine if conduct alleged subjects a licensee to disciplinary action. It also involves giving defendant 90 days in which to conduct a review of the allegations and either reject the claim, make a settlement offer or make an offer to arbitrate. (Settlement at this phase is rare.) Then plaintiff has 30 days from receipt of that response to give their own response. Then there is an informal discovery process, response to written questionnaires, collection of un-sworn statements by treating providers and more. Additionally, medical malpractice claimants must have an expert witness who is equally if not more qualified than the defendant to testify to a breach in the applicable standard of care. Finally, (save for some exceptions) medical malpractice claims have a two-year statute of limitations, whereas personal injury litigation has a four-year statute of limitations.

Negligence cases are much more simple. That’s why if a defendant can argue it’s medical malpractice, they will, because, as our South Florida medical malpractice attorneys know, it means more hurdles for you. Continue reading

The Florida Supreme Court recently sided plaintiffs in a dispute regarding witness testimony in a medical malpractice lawsuit involving a young child forced to undergo a kidney transplant due to alleged failure to diagnose a chronic illness by her primary care doctor.medical malpractice

In the case of Gutierrez v. Vargas, plaintiff reportedly suffered from a chronic kidney disease that went undiagnosed for six years, ultimately resulting in so much damage she had no choice but to undergo a kidney transplant. Defendant argues plaintiff suffered a different disease that could not have been diagnosed sooner. The case went to trial and plaintiff was awarded $4.1 million in damages.

Defendant appealed on the grounds the decision conflicts directly with those of other district courts on a question of law. Specifically, defense argued the lower court should not have allowed several of the girl’s treating physician to testify at trial about their diagnostic opinions or allowed rebuttal testimony from a second pathology expert. After the judgment was reversed and remanded for trial by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, the state high court ruled there was no abuse of discretion and affirmed the trial court’s conclusion. Continue reading

The ongoing scourge of medical malpractice in Florida is reason the state legislature and health care professionals established the Peer Review process, as outlined in F.S. 395.0193. It’s a means of identifying potential problem areas for individual physicians by having colleagues review their work, with the stated goal being improvement of patient care and reduction in medical and legal expenses. medical malpractice

However, one of the aspects of the peer review process, per section 8 of that statute, is that the investigations, proceedings and records of the peer review panel, a committee of a hospital board, disciplinary board, government board or agent of one of these “shall not be subject to discovery or introduction into evidence in any civil or administrative action against a provider of professional health services arising out of the matters which are the subject of evaluation and review…” In other words, if you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a Florida doctor, the records contained in these peer review files – even if relevant – can’t be compelled. However, records pertaining to these cases from independent sources aren’t immune from discovery just because they were presented in peer review proceedings.

It can be frustrating as a patient who suffered a missed diagnosis, misdiagnosis or other medical error to know there are records that could help your case that you can’t use. However, as a recent case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court revealed, this immunity may not extend to each and all circumstances. Pennsylvania has a similar peer review process and statutory immunity to protect information gleaned in these proceedings. However, in Reginelli v. Boggs, the court held that the performance file developed by an independent contractor (one that provided staffing and administrative services for a hospital emergency room) were not protected under the state’s peer review statute. Continue reading

“Never events,” according to the National Quality Forum, are those mistakes that occur during medical care that are:

  • Clearly identifiable;
  • Easily preventable;
  • Serious in their consequences for patients;
  • Indicate major problems in the safety and credibility of a health care center. medical malpractice

They include things likes mismatched blood transfusions, major medication errors, surgery on the wrong body part and pressure ulcers/ bedsores. They also include items, like surgical sponges, left inside a patient after surgery. Yet the Institute of Medicine estimates more than 100,000 such incidents occur annually, resulting in more deaths than car accidents and more than $9 billion in excess charges.

A recent analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine details a case wherein a 42-year-old woman reported to a primary care center with bloating – only to discover in a CT scan that two gauze sponges had been left inside her abdomen from one of two (or both) prior C-section surgeries – one six years earlier and one nine years earlier. CNN reports she’d had no prior abdominal or pelvic surgeries.  Continue reading

Every year, hundreds of thousands of patients undergo surgery at one of the nation’s rapidly proliferating surgical centers (estimated to be somewhere between 5,600 to 7,000). In fact, these centers now surpass the number of hospitals, as U.S. regulators trying to lower health costs are green-lighting an expanding number of outpatient procedures. However, according to a new in-depth report from Kaiser Health News and USA Today, these centers are too often are ill-equipped to handle emergency complications. As a result, hundreds of patients have died as a result of “routine” surgeries, such as tonsillectomies and colonscopies. medical malpractice

No knows exactly how many deaths, illnesses and injuries happen at these centers because no one is required to keep track.

Although any surgery carries a risk and some centers boast top-of-the-line medical equipment and well-trained staffers, journalists uncovered dozens of cases where a lack of training or basic equipment found at most hospitals made a difference in patient outcomes.  Continue reading

This flu season has been a brutal one, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting more than 60,000 cases since October resulting in hundreds of deaths. Although the flu is a fairly common viral infection, one of the most severe complications is sepsis. This is a type of bacterial blood infection that is the body’s overwhelming response to some other infection and can follow not just the flu but pneumonia, urinary tract infections, bedsores, surgery wounds, intravenous lines and other conditions.medical malpractice attorney

Symptoms of sepsis include:

  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Pale or discolored skin
  • Rapid breathing/ shortness of breath
  • Extreme pain/ discomfort
  • Sudden confusion
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Kidney failure

Sepsis can be fatal (it’s the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association) and must be treated rapidly and appropriately. Young children, the elderly, those suffering from chronic diseases and weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable. Even those who survive may have long-term complications, including kidney damage requiring lifelong dialysis.

A diagnosis of sepsis or septic shock alone is not proof of medical malpractice, even in cases of death. However, if the initial infection or the development of sepsis was hospital-acquired or if it was improperly treated, there may be grounds for a South Florida medical malpractice lawsuit.  Continue reading

A baby admitted to the hospital with the flu left with severe and permanent brain damage as a result of Miami medical malpractice by a nurse who was high on drugs. That’s the plaintiff’s allegation in a recently-filed South Florida injury lawsuit. medical malpractice attorney

The Miami Herald reports the child now has a feeding tube in his stomach and is unable to speak, swallow solid foods or walk more than few steps unassisted. He was just 4-months-old when admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in November 2015. His doctors today say he will likely need intensive, around-the-clock nursing care for the rest of his life. His mother has had to quit her job in order to help attend his needs. He is undergoing a rigorous treatment of pediatric therapies.

According to the lawsuit, defendant nurse bathed the child and on accident removed the boy’s breathing tube for a period of approximately seven minutes. During his shift, colleagues observed he was sweating, shaking and had bloodshot eyes. Despite this, no one apparently raised a red flag about her continuing to provide care to the facilities youngest and most vulnerable patients. Although the child’s mother noted the nurse was “anxious,” she assumed that was “his personality,” and tried not to worry because none of the other doctors and nurses on staff commented on it.

Both the hospital and the defendant nurse (in a written statement to the newspaper) vehemently deny the accusations, despite the nurse having previously admitted his addiction to methamphetamine and other drugs one year prior to this incident. At that time, he was under investigation by the Florida Department of Health and underwent treatment for addiction services. He was still under monitoring at the time of the incident but quit just two months later, costing him both his job and his nursing license. Continue reading

South Florida medical malpractice attorneys recognize obstetrics and gynecology as a medical practice area with higher-than-average rates of litigation. Malpractice in obstetrics and gynecology can result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities for both women and babies. A recent survey by Medscape revealed some of the top reasons for lawsuits against Ob/Gyns are:

  • Patient suffers an abnormal injury – 36 percent
  • Failure to diagnose – 22 percent
  • Failure to treat – 15 percent
  • Poor documentation of patient instruction and education – 5 percent
  • Improperly obtaining/ lack of informed consent – 4 percent
  • Failure to follow safety procedures – 3 percent
  • Errors in medication administration – 2 percentbirth injury lawyer

These usually involved a maternal or fetal death, failed tubal litigation, poor timing/ performance of a cesarean section, bowel perforation or shoulder dystocia. A recent case of a catastrophic injury suffered by a baby delivered by an Ob/Gyn at a federally-funded hospital was allegedly caused by the physician’s “unjustified and overly-vigorous use” of forceps during the birth of a child. The child reportedly now suffers from lifelong mental disabilities, and after a jury awarded the family $42 million for this severe brain injury, the federal government has withdrawn its appeal.  Continue reading

Failure to diagnose is the No. 1 reason physicians face medical malpractice claims. One study in 2013 published in the journal BMJ Open analyzed claims against primary care physicians in the U.S., Australia, France and Canada and found that between 26 and 63 percent of all medical malpractice lawsuits stem from a missed diagnosis. The most commonly misdiagnosed conditions in adults were myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cancer, and meningitis in children.medical malpractice attorney

It was reportedly a failure to properly review a high school senior’s kidney ultrasound led to his death two months later on a class trip, according to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by his parents two years ago. Now, probate court records show the hospital involved has settled the case for $2 million. Valley News in New Hampshire reports the teen suddenly collapsed and died while changing planes en route to a youth leadership conference. An autopsy showed he had a large cancerous tumor on one of his kidneys, which had partially dislodged, passed through blood vessels and into his lungs and heart.

At issue was the fact that doctors had known about a calcified cyst on the boy since he was just 7-years-old. It was a condition that required yearly checkups. In May 2014, at age 17, he experienced blood in his urine, was admitted to the hospital and physicians performed a kidney ultrasound. The doctors ascertained upon review the kidney was stable and his condition unchanged. There was no extensive work-up of ultrasound results and he was discharged from the hospital that same day. He died in late June 2014. Continue reading

Most people assume the end of the road for a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit is the verdict. However, that is not the case as there is always the potential for appeal. The National Center for State Courts reports medical malpractice cases have an appeal rate of 18 percent. Those cases that tend to have the highest rate of appeal are those that involve serious injuries, complex medical and/ or scientific evidence and expert testimony. That’s why medical malpractice cases in Florida tend to have a higher rate of appeal than, say, a car accident injury verdict. What’s more, the center reported, defendants who lose medical malpractice cases are more likely to appeal than plaintiffs. medical malpractice lawyer

Most medical malpractice cases that are appealed involve:

  • Loss of mental function;
  • Facial scarring;
  • Loss of sight/ hearing;
  • Death;
  • Paralysis.

Because appeals can be so costly, it’s not unheard of for medical malpractice plaintiffs to end up back in negotiations with defendants – even after they have obtained a favorable verdict. The reason is if there is a good chance defendant will appeal (and may have a strong argument on appeal), plaintiff may agree to a settlement – ending the case then and there, albeit for a lesser amount – than go through the time, expense and ordeal of an appeal. It’s also possible that if a trial is bifurcated (split into separate issues, usually liability and damages) that a defendant will settle after liability has been determined, but prior to a finding of damages. Continue reading