Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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An individual’s right to have a judicial officer physically present at hearings held to determine whether the individual may be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility or hospital pursuant to “the Baker Act,” Fla. Stat. 394.467, is denied by the remote appearance of judicial officers at Baker Act hearings. In this case, a single judicial officer of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit instituted a process providing for the remote appearance of judicial officers via an e-mail. The Florida Supreme Court quashed the decision of the panel of the Second District Court of Appeal, which concluded there was no legal duty clearly established in the law that requires judicial officers presiding over Baker Act hearings to be physically present. The Supreme Court remanded the proceedings to the Second District for instructions not inconsistent with this opinion. View "Doe v. State" on Justia Law

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Florida Constitution Article X, section 25 (Amendment 7), adopted by citizen initiative in 2004, provides patients “a right to have access to any records made or received in the course of business by a health care facility or provider relating to any adverse medical incident.” “Adverse medical incident” includes “any other act, neglect, or default of a health care facility or health care provider that caused or could have caused injury to or death of a patient.” Amendment 7 gives medical malpractice plaintiffs access to any adverse medical incident record, including incidents involving other patients [occurrence reports], created by health care providers. The Federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act, however, creates a voluntary, confidential, non-punitive system of data sharing of health care errors for the purpose of improving medical care and patient safety, 42 U.S.C. 299b-21(6), and establishes a protected legal environment in which providers can share data “both within and across state lines, without the threat that the information will be used against [them].” The Supreme Court of Florida reversed a holding that Amendment 7 was preempted. The Federal Act was never intended as a shield to the production of documents required by Amendment 7. The health care provider or facility cannot shield documents not privileged under state law by virtue of its unilateral decision of where to place the documents under the federal voluntary reporting system. View "Charles. v. Southern Baptist Hospital of Florida, Inc." on Justia Law

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Child was born with birth-related neurological injuries. Child's parents (Petitioners) filed a claim for compensation under the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan. The Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association agreed to pay parental compensation of $100,000 to both parents jointly under Fla. Stat. 766.31(1)(b)(1), which provides for an award not exceeding $100,000 to the parents or legal guardians of an infant found to have sustained a birth-related neurological injury. Petitioners reserved the right to have a hearing before an ALJ to raise the issue of the interpretation and constitutionality of section 766.31(1)(b)(1). The ALJ denied Petitioners' claim for an additional $100,000 as part of the parental award, finding that the Legislature clearly intended that the maximum award of $100,000 was for both parents, not for each parent. The district court upheld the ALJ's judgment and denied each of Petitioners' constitutional claims. The Supreme Court approved the district court's decision, holding that the parental award provision (1) unambiguously provides for only a single award of $100,000; (2) does not violate equal protection; and (3) neither is void for vagueness nor unconstitutionally limits the right of access to courts. View "Samples v. Fla. Birth Related Neurological Injury Comp. Ass'n" on Justia Law

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A nursing home patient (Decedent) signed an agreement providing for arbitration of disputes arising out of treatment and care at the nursing home. Decedent subsequently died, allegedly through the nursing home's negligence. Through Decedent's personal representative, Decedent's survivors (Plaintiffs) subsequently brought a cause of action for deprivation of rights under the applicable nursing home statute and, alternatively, a wrongful death action. At issue on appeal was whether an arbitration agreement signed by the decedent requires his estate and heirs to arbitrate their wrongful death claims. The court of appeal concluded that the estate and heirs were bound by the arbitration agreement but certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Court approved of the court of appeal's decision and answered that the execution of a nursing home arbitration agreement by a patient with capacity to contract binds the patient's estate and statutory heirs in a subsequent wrongful death action arising from an alleged tort within the scope of the valid arbitration agreement. View "Laizure v. Avante at Leesburg, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action against a dentist (Dentist) and his dental practice, alleging that Dentist's failure to diagnose and treat his dental conditions resulted in a bone infection and a worsening of his dental problems, which caused severe and permanent physical and emotional damage. In preparation for trial, there was an ex parte predeposition conference conducted between Plaintiff's nonparty treating physician and counsel provided by Defendant's insurance company. Plaintiff contended that the ex parte meeting violated the State's physician-patient confidentiality statute as delineated in Fla. Stat. 456.057(8). The Supreme Court held that section 456.057 prohibits such meetings and quashed the decision of the Fourth District holding otherwise. In particular, the Court held that an ex parte meeting such as the one attempted here is prohibited irrespective of whether the attorney and physician claim they will discuss only non-privileged matters. View "Hasan v. Garvar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a negligence action against Dr. Mary Jane Benson, Dr. George C. Rees, and West Florida Hospital, alleging that the doctors were negligent in rendering medical care to her, which resulted in excessive liver damage. Plaintiff's claim against the hospital were based on both vicarious liability for Dr. Benson's negligence, as well as liability for the direct negligence in granting medical staff privileges to both doctors, which led to the medical care and procedures performed. The court approved the First District's decision because it held that the trial court correctly ordered the disclosure of a blank application for medical staff privileges. Section 381.0287(b)1 impermissible attempted to limit the disclosure requirements of article X, section 25 of the Florida Constitution (Amendment 7), and the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 (HCQIA), 42 U.S.C. 11101 et seq., did not preempt Amendment 7. In accordance with the court's decision, the court disapproved of the decision of the Fourth District in Tenet Healthsystem Hospitals, Inc. v. Taitel and its contrary holding that a blank form used by a hospital for nurse credentialing was confidential and protected by disclosure.

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Petitioner filed suit against respondent, alleging negligence, violation of resident's rights, and breach of fiduciary duty. Respondent moved to compel arbitration. Petitioner raised several issues on appeal. The court held that its decision was controlled in part by Shotts v. OP Winter Haven, Inc., another nursing home arbitration case. Pursuant to the court's reasoning in that case, the court held that the district court erred in the following respects: (i) in ruling that the limitation of liability provisions in this case, which placed a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages and waived punitive damages, were severable; (ii) in failing to rule that the court, not the arbitrator, must decide whether the arbitration agreement violated public policy; and (iii) in failing to rule that the above limitation of liability provisions violated public policy. The court also held that the United States Supreme Court decision in Rent-A-Center, West. Inc. v. Jackson was inapplicable.

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Petitioner, as personal representative of her uncle's estate, filed a complaint against respondent alleging negligence and breach of fiduciary duties. Respondent moved to compel arbitration based on an agreement petitioner had signed on her uncle's admission. The court held that the district court erred in failing to rule that the court, not the arbitrator, must decide whether the arbitration agreement violated public policy. The court also held that the district court erred in failing to rule that the limitations of remedies provisions in this case violated public policy, for they undermined specific statutory remedies created by the Legislature. The court further held that the district court erred in ruling that the limitations of remedies provisions that called for imposition of the American Health Lawyer Association rules was severable. The court finally concluded that the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson was inapplicable.

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Plaintiff suffered a stroke with devastating consequences, leaving him with permanent paralysis and aphasia. Following a jury trial on his claim of medical malpractice, plaintiff received a jury verdict that awarded substantial damages to him and his wife. At issue was whether the Second District permissibly reweighed the testimony presented by plaintiff's expert witness as to whether the conduct of the hospital and emergency room doctor caused him to suffer devastating damages as a result of the stroke. The court held that it was within the jury's province to evaluate the expert's credibility and weigh her testimony and that the Second District misapplied the court's precedent by reweighing the evidence and rejecting the expert's explanation. Accordingly, the court quashed the Second District's judgment and remanded for further proceedings.

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Respondent filed a complaint against petitioner, alleging the negligence of certain residents, fellows, and nurses at Jackson Memorial Hospital where her newborn son contracted a severe bacterial infection and subsequently died. At issue was whether, under section 768.28(7), Florida Statutes, the timing of respondent's service of process on the Florida Department of Financial Services ("DFS") was fatal to her negligence action. The court expressly rejected the argument that service of process on DFS was a condition precedent to respondent's cause of action and that proving service of process was an element of her burden of proof. Therefore, the court held that DFS was not a party to the cause of action and petitioner failed to demonstrate prejudice. The court concluded that the timing of respondent's service was not fatal to her negligence claim against petitioner and affirmed the trial court's denial of petitioner's motion for directed verdict.