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Ordinary Negligence vs. Medical Negligence in Florida

Equipment in a hospital room

Under Florida law, medical malpractice cases are subject to certain procedural requirements. If you have been injured by a health care professional, it is important to speak to a qualified Miami medical malpractice lawyer who can assess the merits of your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our team has handled a variety of medical malpractice claims and can help you as well.

In Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics v. Estate of Lawson, the court addressed the distinction between medical negligence and ordinary negligence. The facts of the case are as follows. For safety reasons, a female patient was locked in a psychiatric unit of a hospital. After being there for more than two months, the patient managed to take an employee’s keys and escape from the facility. She ran onto a nearby highway, where she was hit and ultimately killed by a truck.

The patient’s estate filed a wrongful death claim against the hospital. The lawsuit alleged ordinary negligence. The hospital responded by filing a motion to dismiss the claim on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to follow the special pre-suit requirements for medical malpractice cases.

The trial court denied the hospital’s motion to dismiss.

The court of appeals reversed the lower court’s decision. The court agreed with the defendant that, although the claim was classified as an ordinary negligence claim, the facts indicated that this was, in fact, a medical negligence claim. This is because the plaintiff’s claim inevitably required showing that, by not keeping the woman confined, the hospital failed to meet the appropriate “level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar healthcare providers.” Put another way, since the patient’s harm stemmed from the hospital’s breach of duty to keep the woman confined, which was required by her medical condition, the claim was one of medical negligence.

The court went on to explain that some injuries that take place in medical settings do not invoke the medical standard of care. One example is spilling a hot drink on a patient. In such a case, the ordinary negligence standard could be applied. In the case at hand, however, the facts of this case stated that the patient had been locked in a unit for her own safety, which would necessitate proof regarding the medical negligence standard of care.

It is important to note that categorizing a lawsuit as medical malpractice as opposed to ordinary negligence determines whether a plaintiff must satisfy strict limitations and repose provisions, comply with special requirements when it comes to expert testimony, bear the burden of showing the defendant’s deviation from medical standards, and be subject to the compensation amount limited by the statutory cap on damages.

To find out if you have a valid medical malpractice claim under Florida law, it is advisable to speak with a qualified Miami medical malpractice attorney who can assess the merits of your case. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we proudly represent clients across South Florida. To learn more about your legal rights and options, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

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