Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal left little doubt who side they are on when they recently dismissed the claim of Charles Burns on behalf of the Estate of Enrique Casanovas for a Florida hospital’s medical malpractice and wrongful death that occurred at Palms West Hospital.
Mr. Casanovas was taken to the Emergency Room of Palms West hospital complaining of abdominal pain and nausea and was vomiting blood. He was found to have high blood sugar and was in diabetic ketoacidosis. The ER doctor knew he needed to be seen immediately by a gastroenterologist; however there were none at the hospital.
Sadly, the hospital tried to contact every GI on staff, all of whom refused to come because Mr. Casanovas was uninsured. When no doctors came to Mr. Casanova’s aid, the hospital was forced to have him transferred to North Broward Medical Center where he died.
His estate sued Palms West Hospital and alleged that they were negligent in allowing doctors on staff that would not come to the aid of an uninsured patient. Like most hospitals, Palms West had a contract with gastroenterologist to provide emergency room services and therefore had the obligation to provide those services to patients like Mr. Casanovas regardless of insurance. The Complaint alleged that the hospital knew that these GI docs would refuse to come if called on an uninsured patient but allowed them to stay on staff anyway.
The Complaint against the hospital was for negligent retention of these doctors and failure to ensure that the hospital had adequate and competent staff. The Estate did not comply with Florida’s Medical Malpractice Act found in Florida Statute §766.203 and sued the hospital on standard negligence and malpractice theories. The trial court dismissed all of the counts for failure to comply with the presuit requirements of the Florida Malpractice Act but allowed the two remaining causes of action to proceed.
Palm West filed a petition for certiorari for failure to dismiss the remaining two counts and the Fourth District Court of Appeal accepted the petition for certiorari relief in that they felt that irreparably injury would occur if the case proceeded to trial. The Fourth reversed the trial court by finding that the remaining claims for rendering or failure to render medical services do in fact arise from the Florida Medical Malpractice Act and that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by not dismissing the entire law suit for not complying with the presuit requirements.
While not every injury that occurs in connection with medical care and treatment is subject to the Malpractice Act, our lawyers believe that when if at all possible, one should try to comply with the presuit requirements to avoid running the risk of having a case dismissed. As a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who sues doctors and hospitals for malpractice I am saddened by the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling in this case, especially in light of Mr. Casanova’s death and the callousness of both the hospital and the doctors who refused to come to his aid.