The District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fourth District (“Florida Appellate Court”) held in its opinion dated August 21, 2019 that a claim that a nurse who allegedly caused a patient, designated as a “fall risk,” to fall while helping the patient out of his hospital bed sounds in medical negligence: “The alleged exercise of professional judgment here, while arguably also involving common sense, will depend on the standard of nursing care in transferring a patient from the hospital bed.”
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff was admitted to the defendant hospital to undergo medical procedures. The defendant hospital classified the plaintiff as a “fall risk.” The day after admission, the plaintiff fell while being transferred from a hospital bed to use the bathroom when the nurse assisting him answered her phone in the process. The plaintiff sued the defendant hospital for his injuries.
The defendant hospital moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiff failed to comply with the presuit requirements of Chapter 766 (Florida’s medical malpractice statute) and that the complaint should be dismissed. The plaintiff responded that the nurse’s actions did not involve professional skill or judgment. The trial court denied the motion and the defendant hospital thereafter petitioned the Florida Appellate Court for certiorari relief.
Florida Appellate Court Opinion
In Florida, to be a medical malpractice claim, the cause of action must arise from medical, dental, or surgical diagnoses, treatment or care. The defendant hospital argued that the plaintiff’s claim involves the sufficiency of the nurse’s supervision of an admitted patient who was deemed to be a “fall risk” and that the plaintiff will have to rely on the professional standard of care that exists for nurses transferring patients from beds. The Florida Appellate Court stated, “We agree.”
The Florida Appellate Court held that the trial court had erred in failing to grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss based on the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the presuit requirements of the Florida medical malpractice statute, section 766.106, Florida Statutes (2019).
The dissenting opinion stated, in part: “the act from which the plaintiff’s claim arises was not directly related to medical care or services requiring the use of professional judgment or skill. The gravamen of the complaint was that the nurse breached the duty of reasonable care by answering her telephone while assisting the plaintiff out of his hospital bed, causing her to drop the plaintiff. Notably, although the complaint alleges that the plaintiff was a fall risk, the complaint does not allege that the hospital was negligent in its professional assessment concerning the level of monitoring or assistance that the plaintiff required. The routine task of assisting a patient out of bed is not an act directly related to medical care or services requiring the use of professional judgment or skill. But even if there were some circumstances where helping a patient out of bed could be considered an act of medical care requiring professional judgment or skill, the plaintiff’s claim here is not that the nurse used an improper procedure or applied improper professional judgment when helping him out of bed. Instead, the plaintiff’s theory of liability is that the nurse answered her phone and dropped him while helping him out of bed. The nurse’s alleged decision in this case to stop assisting the plaintiff in order to answer the phone cannot be deemed an act requiring the use of professional judgment or skill … Based on the allegations in the complaint, a jury could easily determine—without the help of expert testimony—that the nurse committed ordinary negligence by failing to exercise reasonable care when she answered the phone and allowed the plaintiff to fall. In other words, the nurse allegedly deviated from what any reasonable person would do while assisting another person out of bed. This is not a claim for medical malpractice.”
Source North Broward Hospital District d/b/a Broward Health Coral Springs v. Michael Slusher, No. 4D19-1868.
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