There are a number of hoops, so to speak, that a person seeking to sue for medical malpractice in Florida must jump through before filing suit. The Third District Court of Appeal explains one of them - pre-suit notice - in King v. Baptist Hospital of Miami.
Plaintiff Melissa King sent formal notices to Dr. William Thompson and his employer, Pediatric Group, PLLC, informing them that she intended to file a malpractice suit stemming from surgery and other treatment provided by Dr. Thompson to King's child at Baptist Hospital in Miami.
King then filed suit against a number of parties, including Thompson, THE University of Miami and Baptist Hospital, alleging that it was vicariously liable for Dr. Thompson's negligence. The trial court granted the hospital's motion to dismiss the claims against it, finding that King did not properly notify the hospital of her intent to file suit.
Florida law requires a plaintiff to notify each prospective defendant of his or her intent to sue prior to filing a complaint for medical negligence." Furthermore, civil procedure rule 1.650(b)(1) provides that by sending the pre-suit notice to a prospective defendant via certified mail, a plaintiff effectively gives notice to both the prospective defendant and any other prospective defendant with a legal relationship to the person or entity to whom the notice was sent.
The trial court found that there was no legal relationship between the hospital and either Dr. Thompson or Pediatric Group, and therefore their notice of the suit could not be imputed to the hospital.
On appeal, the Third District reversed the trial court's decision, finding that King sufficiently pled a legal relationship between Dr. Thompson and Baptist Hospital so as to survive the motion to dismiss. Specifically, she claimed that Baptist and THE University of Miami were partners in a joint venture, through which the university provided pediatric surgeons to develop a pediatric department at the hospital. Dr. Thompson was one of those physicians, performing medical services and acting as director for the hospital's pediatric surgery program under the agreement. The court also noted that Thompson was a member of various boards and committees at the hospital and at times performed elective surgery there, beyond the contract with UM.
"All of this is evidence of a legal relationship, and at a minimum, raises a question of fact for the jury as to whether Dr. Thompson only had staff privileges or was something more," the court ruled. As a result, the trial court prematurely dismissed the claims against Baptist. The court reversed the decision and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.
This case is a good example of the complicated legal issues that must be considered before bringing medical malpractice claims against hospitals, doctors and other health professionals. An experienced personal injury attorney is vital to pursuing a claim after a medical error causes injury. If you or a loved one was injured by poor medical care, contact the South Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. Anidjar & Levine represents clients throughout the area, including in Coral Springs, Hollywood and Pompano Beach, and offers a free initial consultation from our Fort Lauderdale offices. Call the firm today at (800) 747-FREE.
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