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Florida Supreme Court Clarifies Causation in Medical Malpractice Cases

If you or your loved one has been injured by the negligence of a medical professional, we can help you pursue compensation for your injury. Medical malpractice cases are tough but you can take comfort in knowing that the highly skilled Miami medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert Dixon can help you determine what happened and who is responsible.

The Case

In a recent opinion, the Supreme Court of Florida discussed the element of causation in Florida medical malpractice cases. The facts of the case are as follows. A woman went to the doctor after she noticed a large mass on the back of her head. The primary care physician told her it was a tumor and sent her to a surgeon. Instead of ordering a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, the neurosurgeon simply advised the patient that having surgery to remove the “tumor’ would be the best option. During surgery, the woman went into cardiac arrest and died. As it turns out, she had undiagnosed cardiac risk factors.

Her husband, the plaintiff, then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital for damages alleging that the negligence of several doctors, including the anesthesiologist, was the direct cause of his wife’s death. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the anesthesiologist failed to identify abnormal test results during pre-operative clearance, which would have led to surgery being cancelled and the decedent would not have died.

Medical malpractice occurs when a patient’s injury or death is the direct result of a medical professional’s failure to follow to the appropriate standard of care when treating a patient. The standard of care refers to the level of care that a reasonably competent medical professional in the same specialty (i.e., the same branch of medicine) would have used in the same situation. In order to establish medical malpractice, the plaintiff must show that the medical professional’s conduct violated the standard of care and that this violation was a direct and proximate cause of the patient’s harm. Here, the anesthesiologist sought to have the case dismissed arguing the plaintiff failed to establish causation (i.e., the legal cause of the patient’s death).

The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants holding causation was not established. On appeal, the appellate agreed with the trial court that there was not substantial evidence to conclude the anesthesiologist was a “primary cause” of the patent’s death. The Supreme Court quashed the appellate court’s decision, holding that the lower court’s decision conflicted with precedent pertaining to the proximate cause standard. The court explained that even if the anesthesiologist was not the primary cause of the patient’s death, he might still be liable for his role if his conduct substantially caused or contributed to the patient’s death. Thus, the case was remanded back to the trial court.

Contact a Seasoned Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or someone close to you has been the victim of medical malpractice, you may be eligible to recover compensation for your harm. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our experienced Miami medical malpractice attorneys understand how to navigate complicated personal injury cases. For more information about your case, call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

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