The District Court of Appeal First District, State of Florida (“Florida Appellate Court”) ruled in its opinion filed on November 6, 2017 that a claim involving a urologist’s removal of a stool used by a patient to ascend onto an examination table that the urologist then removed after the examination and resulted in the patient’s fall while she was descending from the examination table was a claim of ordinary negligence, and not medical negligence, and therefore it was error for the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim because she had failed to comply with Florida’s presuit requirements for medical negligence claims.
The plaintiff alleged that she visited the defendant urologist in his medical office to have a catheter removed. In the examination room, the defendant provided a stool for the plaintiff to use to ascend onto the examination table. The defendant then moved the stool away and performed the procedure.
After the procedure, the defendant told the plaintiff to go to the front desk and schedule a follow-up appointment for the following week, and then the urologist left the examination room. The plaintiff began to descend from the examination table, but because the stool had been removed, she fell onto the floor.
The plaintiff alleged that the failure to replace the stool created a known dangerous condition, and that the defendant urologist knew or should have known that he had not replaced the stool for her. The plaintiff alleged that she suffered serious and permanent injuries due to her fall.
Medical Negligence Or Ordinary Negligence?
The Florida Appellate Court stated that when evaluating whether a complaint sounds in ordinary negligence or medical negligence, courts must determine from the allegations whether the claim arises out of the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical care or services: the core inquiry is whether the claim relies on the application of the medical malpractice standard of care. Courts must look beyond the legal labels urged by plaintiffs and must apply the law to the well-pleaded factual allegations and decide the legal issue of whether the complaint sounds in simple or medical negligence; the mere fact that a negligent act occurred in a medical setting doesn’t make it medical negligence.
Ordinary negligence is something jurors can resolve by referring to common experience; medical negligence requires the help of experts to establish what is acceptable, appropriate, and prudent because jurors cannot determine through “common experience” whether medical standards of care were breached.
The Florida Appellate Court held in the case it was deciding: “at this stage of the proceedings we do not believe [the plaintiff’s] claim sounds in medical negligence. Jurors can use their common experiences to evaluate the act of placing and removing a step used by someone to get on and off a table, just as they could evaluate the act of pulling a chair out from under someone about to sit down. We note that our decision today rests solely on the allegations within the four corners of the amended complaint and should not foreclose a later challenge should the case morph into a medical negligence claim. Because we conclude that the amended complaint alleges a claim of ordinary negligence, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.”
Source Vance v. Okaloosa-Walton Urology, P.A., Case No. 1D16-4272.
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