In cases where a Florida hospital or doctor is accused of causing the death of a patient, the patient’s family has to prove not only that the healthcare provider made a medical mistake but that the mistake, in fact, proximately caused the patient’s death.

Camillus Alfred, a Broward County Florida husband, recently sued Hollywood Medical Center alleging that they were responsible for the death of his wife, Ursuline Alfred. A Fort Lauderdale jury agreed and entered a verdict against the hospital. The Florida hospital appealed the verdict, to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, and argued that the Judge should have entered a directed verdict and should have never allowed the case to go to a jury. The hospital claimed that Mr. Alford was unable to prove that the hospital’s nursing staffs’ (not the defendant doctor who incidentally settled while the jury was deliberating) acts “more likely than not” caused his wife’s death.

Apparently, Mrs. Alfred died after unsuccessful attempts to intubate her caused her to go into cardiac arrest. Intubation should only take seconds and is a method of delivering increased oxygen to the heart.

The Appellate Court in Hollywood Medical Center, Inc. d/b/a Hollywood Medical Center v. Camillus Alfred, as Personal Representative of Ursuline Alfred, reversed the trial court by stating that there was no evidence in the record that the nursing staffs’ negligence was a cause of death or that it was a nursing obligation to intubate a patient. Moreover, even though there was proof of nursing mistakes, there was no evidence that any of the failures affected the ultimate outcome.

Florida’s medical malpractice law is outlined by Florida’s Supreme Court in the seminal case of Gooding v. Univ. Hosp. Bldg. Inc., 445 So. 2nd 1015, 1018 (Fla. 1984). It requires that a claimant in a medical malpractice case prove that the injury “more likely than not” resulted from the defendant’s negligence in order to establish a jury question on proximate cause. When a plaintiff cannot prove proximate cause in Florida, a defendant is entitled to a directed verdict.

Many mistakes are caused by Florida’s healthcare providers every day from birth trauma injuries to bed sores. Often times, these mistakes result in injury, disfigurement, and death. However, if a claimant is unable to prove that the mistake “more likely than not” caused the injury or death, the injured patient will not be legally entitled to submit their claim to a jury. As such, proving causation is often the most difficult element in litigating claims on behalf of Florida’s injured patients.

Our Florida patient advocates are dedicated to holding hospitals and doctors responsible for the harm caused by their negligence. We hope that this ruling will not discourage doctors and hospitals from providing Florida’s patients the best healthcare possible.

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