On August 24, 2016, the District Court of Appeal of Florida Second District (“Appellate Court”) affirmed the trial court entering summary judgment on behalf of the defendant hospital in a Florida medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit, finding that the physicians who treated the decedent at the defendant hospital were not employees of the hospital and that the decedent was aware of the relationship between the physicians who treated her and the defendant hospital.
The Underlying Facts
The decedent had gone to the defendant hospital on October 12, 2009 because she had been suffering from a severe stomach ache, nausea, and decreased appetite since the end of September 2009. She was admitted to the defendant hospital and was diagnosed with colon cancer. On October 21, 2009, the two defendant surgeons operated on the decedent in the defendant hospital during which she sustained a tear to the wall of her inferior vena cava, which caused excessive bleeding and led to her death on the operating room table.
The personal representative of the decedent’s estate filed a Florida medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit in which he alleged that the defendant surgeons were agents of the defendant hospital, that the defendant hospital had a nondelegable duty to provide the decedent with nonnegligent surgical procedures, and that the defendant hospital failed to satisfy the requirements of section 1012.965, Florida Statutes (2009).
Section 1012.965(1) provides: “[A]n employee or agent under the right of control of a university board of trustees who, pursuant to the university board’s policies or rules, renders medical care or treatment at any hospital . . . with which the university board maintains an affiliation agreement whereby the hospital . . . provides to the university board a clinical setting for health care education, research, and services, shall not be deemed to be an agent of any person other than the university board in any civil action resulting from any act or omission of the employee or agent while rendering said medical care or treatment.”
In order for the defendant hospital to be protected by section 1012.965(1), the patient must be provided separate written conspicuous notice by the university board of trustees or by the hospital or health care facility, and must acknowledge receipt of this notice, in writing, unless impractical by reason of an emergency, either personally or through another person authorized to give consent for him or her, that he or she will receive care provided by university board’s employees and liability, if any, that may arise from that care is limited as provided by law.
The Special Notice Documents
At the time the decedent went to the defendant hospital’s emergency room, she signed a Certification and Authorization form, as well as a Special Notice form. On the day before surgery, the decedent met with one of the defendant surgeons and signed another form, the Consent & Disclosure for Medical and/or Surgical Procedures.
The Appellate Court held that the Special Notice form signed by the decedent complied with section 1012.965 (the Special Notice was a separate written and conspicuous notice contemplated by the statute), and that by signing the Special Notice form, the decedent acknowledged its receipt, which is all the statute requires. The Appellate Court held that the language of the Special Notice form adequately informed the decedent that the defendant surgeons could be responsible for her care and that they were not employees of the defendant hospital. The Appellate Court noted that the Certificate and Authorization form and the Consent and Disclosure form, both received and signed by the decedent, reinforced that fact.
The Appellate Court further held that the trial court properly granted summary judgment for the defendant hospital on the estate’s apparent agency theory of liability: no disputed material facts undermine the trial court’s conclusion that the defendant surgeons were not employees or agents of the defendant hospital, and the defendant hospital did not control the defendant surgeons.
Source Godwin v. University of South Florida Board of Trustees, Cases Nos. 2D14-2588, 2D14-2962.
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