The Third District Court of Appeal State of Florida (“Florida Appellate Court”) stated in its opinion filed on August 1, 2018 that it was unable to conclude that the act from which the plaintiff’s claim arises – the attack on the plaintiff by another patient in a Florida hospital – is directly related to the defendant hospital’s medical care or services, which would require the use of professional judgment or skill. Therefore, the Florida Appellate Court did not characterize the plaintiff’s claims as ones for medical malpractice and, consequently, the plaintiff was not required to give the defendant hospital pre-suit notice pursuant to section 766.106(2)(a).
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff was a resident psychiatric patient at a facility operated by the defendant hospital. On October 11, 2013, another resident psychiatric patient came into the plaintiff’s room and beat the plaintiff with a metal handrail that he had removed from a hallway wall of the hospital. The plaintiff suffered injuries to his face and head.
The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendant hospital for negligence. In his multi-count amended complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant hospital had an affirmative duty both to (i) provide security to the plaintiff, and (ii) train its staff to recognize and address emergency situations such as the assault on the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant hospital breached these duties by failing to correct the situation before the assault on him occurred, and by failing to properly train its staff members to provide proper supervision and control of their psychiatric patients.
The defendant hospital moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s amended complaint, asserting that, irrespective of how his counts were labeled, the plaintiff’s claims were actually medical malpractice claims, and that dismissal was required because he did not provide the hospital with the pre-suit notice required by section 766.106(2)(a) of the Florida Statutes. The trial court granted the defendant hospital’s motion, dismissed the plaintiff’s amended complaint with prejudice, and the plaintiff appealed.
Florida Appellate Court Opinion
The Florida Appellate Court stated that the determinative factor in deciding whether the plaintiff’s claims were for medical malpractice or ordinary negligence was whether the plaintiff, in order to prevail, must rely upon the medical negligence standard of care as set forth in section 766.102(1).
The Florida Appellate Court cited a recent Florida Supreme Court opinion in which it stated “[W]e hold that for a claim to sound in medical malpractice, the act from which the claim arises must be directly related to medical care or services, which require the use of professional judgment or skill. This inquiry involves determining whether proving the claim requires the plaintiff to establish that the allegedly negligent act ‘represented a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care,’ as testified to by a qualified medical expert.”
The Florida Appellate Court stated that in the present case, the act causing the plaintiff’s injury did not directly result from the defendant hospital’s provision of medical care or services requiring staff’s professional judgment or skill. Thus, the plaintiff’s claim is not one for medical malpractice (i.e., the plaintiff’s alleged injuries were not occasioned by acts directly related to medical care or treatment implicating an inquiry into the medical malpractice standard of care articulated in section 766.102(1)).
Source Simmons v. Jackson Memorial Hospital, No. 3D17-2291.
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