If you ask any Florida personal injury lawyer, they will probably tell you that medical malpractice lawsuits are some of the most difficult cases they handle. Thanks to a recent decision by Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals, it just got a little bit harder.
Florida State Legislature Expands Healthcare Provider Immunity
In recent years, the Florida state legislature has been granting immunity for certain doctors and institutions from medical malpractice lawsuits under section 768.28 of the Florida Statutes.
In 2011, the Florida state legislature passed an amendment to Section 768.28 that expanded this immunity to cover nonprofit independent universities that agree to provide patient services at government teaching hospitals as part of an affiliation agreement. Under the amendment, universities and their employees would be covered by the immunity as long as they were providing patient services consistent with the affiliation agreement.
Shortly thereafter, the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine entered into an affiliation agreement with the Miami-Dade County Public Health Trust – the government agency that operates Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. The employees of Jackson Memorial Hospital were granted immunity under section 768.28.
Two Injured Patients Challenge the Constitutionality of the Amendment
Two former patients filed medical malpractice lawsuits against the hospital: Fernando Vallecillo, who was left blind in his right eye after a surgical procedure to remove a benign tumor; and Latoya Bean, whose baby died after doctors administered a drug called Misoprostol to induce birth, even though the drug had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for that purpose and the instructions warn that using it could result in birth defects, premature birth and uterine rupture.
In both instances, the university and doctors moved to dismiss the lawsuits due to the immunity granted them by the legislature. The plaintiffs contended that the legislature cannot constitutionally expand immunity to the university and its employees and agents because they are not state actors subject to state control, they are not funded by the state, and the state is not on the hook for their liability. When a lower court ruled the amendments did not violate the patients’ rights, the plaintiffs appealed.
The Third District Court of Appeals Rules Against the Plaintiffs
In a blow to the plaintiffs, the three judge panel of Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the lower court’s judgment in favor of the University of Miami and its doctors in two medical malpractice lawsuits, stating that, “the legislature’s 2011 amendments to section 768.28, contained in subsections (9)(b) and (10)(f), did not violate the sovereign immunity, equal protection, due process, access to courts, jury trial, and private debt provisions of the Florida Constitution.”
Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida may be more difficult after the Appeals Court decision, but it’s not impossible. If you have been injured due to a medical error on the part of a healthcare professional or hospital, don’t give up on seeking compensation for your damages.
Medical malpractice lawyer Lisa Levine has the experience and dedication to examine all aspects of a medical negligence case and develop an effective legal strategy to pursue the case. In situations involving immunity, there may be alternative avenues of litigation available, especially if the injuries involve defective medical devices or drugs, in which case the manufacturers may be share liability.
Before you get discouraged, contact the law offices of Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney Lisa Levine. Lisa is a nationally recognized personal injury attorney who has been helping clients injured due to medical malpractice in Weston, Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Miami, Coral Gables, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach for over 20 years.