Most lawsuits stemming from wrongdoing within the confines of a hospital or other medical treatment center are going to be filed as medical malpractice claims. These lawsuits assert a medical professional, in the course of carrying out his or her professional duties, failed to adhere to the acceptable standard of care for his or her field.

hospitalroomOur Naples injury lawyers know medical malpractice claims demand a higher level of proof – which includes testimony from an expert witness – even before the case makes it to the trial phase. Claims of general negligence, meanwhile, require only that plaintiff show a duty of care was breached and injury resulted from that breach.

Not every injury that occurs in a hospital is the result of medical malpractice, even when it involves a patient. Sometimes, injuries are merely the result of general negligence, and the higher standards of proof are not necessary. Sometimes, this determination is clear-cut. Other times, it isn’t. The recent case of Buck v. Columbia Hospital Corporation of South Broward is an example of the latter.

Recently, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal ruled the claim was one of medical negligence, as opposed to simple negligence, as plaintiff alleged. Therefore, the court affirmed dismissal of the case on the grounds plaintiff failed to meet the necessary criteria for a medical negligence claim. According to court records, plaintiff filed the lawsuit as personal representative of a decedent, alleging wrongful death for treatment received in May 2012. The complaint alleged patient was brought to the hospital and admitted for complications related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition affecting the lungs.

Two days into her hospital stay, patient was slated to undergo x-rays, and she was transported from her room to the floor where radiology exams were conducted.

Before the x-rays were taken, hospital technicians moved the patient from a gurney onto a table. As they did so, they dropped the patient hard onto the table. The result was she sustained a lumbar spine fracture.

The patient was elderly and had a series of ailments. Because of this, the options for treatment of her broken back were limited. Her overall condition declined rapidly, and she died not long after.

A relative of the woman sued the hospital. Defendant hospital moved to dismiss the complaint on grounds it failed to comply with the pre-lawsuit requirements laid forth in Florida Statute 766.106, which outlines the burden of proof necessary for claims arising from medical negligence.

Plaintiff argued the statute was inapplicable because the complaint arose from general negligence, not medical negligence. The trial court disagreed, and granted defendant’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court noted the key to making a differentiation was whether the lawsuit arose out of medical diagnosis, treatment or care. This was the standard set forth in Stubbs v. Surgi-Staff, Inc., by the same court in 2012. Still, the Florida Supreme Court has held pre-lawsuit screening procedures should generally be read in a way that favors court access.

In this case, the injuries were sustained while patient was in the hospital and during the course of treatment, while being transported from gurney to x-ray table by hospital employees. As such, the court indicated hospital employees or agents were engaged in rendering medical care or services as part of a medical procedure. Therefore, the court found, this was a case of medical negligence, not simple negligence.

Call the Naples medical malpractice attorneys at Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Buck v. Columbia Hospital Corporation of South Broward , Sept. 10, 2014, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal

More Blog Entries:

Shapria v. Christiana Care Health – Medical Malpractice Based on Lack of Informed Consent, Aug. 31, 2014, Naples Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog