July 2, 2013

Florida Attorneys Challege New Medical Malpractice Law

As if the Florida Legislature hasn't given enough lawsuit protection to health care providers by limiting injured victims damages, and by placing onerous pre-lawsuit screening requirements; a recently enacted law, signed by our pro-insurance Governor, now gives potential medical malpractice defendants the right to unmonitored ex parte communications with an injured victim's treating doctors. Thankfully, this new law is now the subject of numerous lawsuits challenging its constitutionality, asserting that it violates privacy rights afforded by Florida's constitution. The lawsuits also challenge the law as a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

There can only be one reason why a potential defendant and their attorney would want to speak to an injured victim's treating doctor, that is to intimidate that doctor from assisting the injured party with their case; why else would the Florida Legislature permit such an egregious violation of a citizens right to privacy?

The attorneys filed the lawsuits challenging the new medical malpractice law in Miami, Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale. Of course, the doctor's and their insurance companies, who want to whatever they can to limit injured victims recoveries, believe the lawsuits are frivolous.

Other limiting portions of the new law include the requirement that the experts hired by the injured patient practice precisely the same type of medicine as the doctor who is the potential defendant. This provision will severely limit Plaintiff's attorneys abilities to find experts who are willing to hold their brethren accountable for committing malpractice. As Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys helping victims of malpractice, we certainly hope the lawsuits successfully overturn these recent limitations on patient's rights.

September 2, 2011

Are Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Cases Legal; Florida Supreme Court Will Decide

The Florida Supreme Court will soon decide whether the mandatory limitations on so- called non economic damages, otherwise known as pain and suffering, in medical malpractice cases is constiitutional.

The damage caps, which were passed into law by the Florida Legislature in 2003, essentially place a limit of one million dollars on the amount a victim of medical malpractice may seek for their pain and suffering, regardless of how many health care professionals cause their injuries.The law, known as Florida Statute section 766.118, also places a limit of $500,00.00 on damages a victim may recover for pain and suffering against any single doctor.

The United States District Court already ruled the limitations on personal injury damages for pain and suffering did not violate the United States Constittion. But, the District Court indicated that the Florida Supreme Court should address the issue with regards to the Florida Constitution.

As lawyers in Florida handling medical malpractice personal injury cases, on behalf of our clients who have suffered catastrophic injuries to to medical negligence, we certainly hope the Florida Supreme Court will decide that these arbitrary limits on damages are inadequate to address the devistation familes suffer due to serious medical negligence.

May 5, 2011

Florida Legislature Protects Private Hospitals

As lawyers practicing personal injury and medical malpractice law in the State of Florida, we continue to be amazed by the ongoing erosion of the rights of Floridians who are injured due to the negligence of doctors and nurses. The legislature just passed a law which will provide sovereign immunity protection to all doctors and nurses working in private hospitals which are deemed to be teaching hospitals affiliated with medical schools.

This means that victims of medical malpractice by doctors at Jackson Memorial in Miami, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Shands Healthcare at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, Orlando Health in Orlando, and Tampa General Hospital, will no longer be personally liable for their negligence. Injured victims will be limited in their recovery to a maximum of $200,000.00, regardless of how devastating their injuries are, or the amount their future medical bills.

When you elect representatives whose self-interest is helping business, at the expense of individuals, unfortunately, this is what you can continue to expect. We can only hope that those victimized by the doctors working at these newly protected hospitals will remember who caused their rights to be lost when its time to vote.

May 4, 2011

Florida Legislature Passes Bill Limiting Medical Malpractice Cases

As personal injury attorneys practicing medical malpractice law in the State of Florida on behalf of the victims of preventable medical errors, we are saddened that the Florida Legislature has again passed a series of laws which will make it increasingly difficult for injured Floridians to obtain justice for their injuries.

Yesterday, the Florida Senate passed the Florida House of Representative's bill, number 479, which among other burdens, requires out of state physicians to obtain an expert witness certificate, if they want to testify in a Florida medical malpractice case. As you can imagine, it is difficult to find local doctors willing to testify against other local doctors, no matter how egregious their conduct.

The bill will also exclude a doctor or hospital's failure to comply with federal requirements from evidence in certain cases. The bill also invades the injured patients right of privacy by requiring them to execute an authorization form for the doctor's insurance company; and, amazingly allows a medical malpractice defendant to interview an injured victim's other treating doctors outside the presence of the injured victim, or their attorney. The only purpose of such unsupervised meetings will be to coerce the treating doctors into rendering testimony which is favorable to the potential defendant doctor or hospital.

Too often injured victims or their surviving family members are shocked by the burdens they must overcome in order to proceed with an medical malpractice case. Unfortunately, these new protections for doctors and hospitals, at the expense of injured Floridians, will only serve to limit the rights of individuals, while doing nothing to insure that health care providers do what is needed to prevent their errors in the first place.

October 15, 2010

DePuy Hip Replacements Failures Spur Lawsuits

As personal injury attorneys handling medical malpractice and products liability cases throughout the State of Florida, we try to keep consumers informed of dangerous products which cause personal injuries. The DePuy ASR, a metal-on-metal hip replacement system, is one such product which is continuing to injury too may patients.

Although the FDA approved the DePuy ASR for use in traditional hip replacement in 2005, the device did not undergo appropriate clinical trials. Unfortunately, since 2008, hundreds of patients have had to have the device replaced soon after getting it.

According to The New York Times, DePuy hip implants are used in about one-third of the approximately 250,000 hip replacements performed annually. However, many orthopedic surgeons have stopped using these DePuy devices due to concerns that they cause severe tissue and bone damage.

As further evidence of the problem with such hip replacements, DePuy has since warned doctors that studies suggested that the ASR had a higher-than-expected failure rate.

We strongly suggest that if you received a DePuy hip implant and are experiencing symptoms such as unexplained hip pain, thigh pain or groin Pain, pain with walking, pain rising from a seated position or pain with weight bearing, that you immediately see your orthopedic surgeon and thereafter protect your legal rights.

August 6, 2007

Florida Hospitals Not Responsible for Doctors' Lack of Medical Malpractice Insurance

In yet another blow to Florida victims of medical malpractice , the Florida Supreme Court ruled that hospitals are not required to verify that their staff physicians carry medical malpractice insurance. This ruling essentially allows doctors to disregard Florida Statute Section 458.720 which requires them to have medical malpractice insurance if they are on a hospital staff. Without hospitals verifying that their staff doctors are complying with their statutory insurance requirements, those doctors will have one less reason to purchase malpractice insurance.

Too often in our practice we see Florida doctors going "bare," that is, not having medical malpractice insurance to protect their patients in the event a procedure or treatment is performed negligently and results in personal injury or wrongful death. Usually it is the office based doctor, one who doesn't venture into hospitals, who has chosen not to carry insurance; but now, with this ruling, there will certainly be a significant increase in surgeons who decide not to get insurance, leaving their patients without an avenue of recovery if something goes wrong.

Considering the profits hospitals make by allowing doctors to operate in their facilities, we would certainly hope that the legislature acts to rectify this omission in Florida Law.

July 17, 2007

Florida Doctor Continues to Operate Despite Involvement in Patient Deaths

In another example of the State of Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration's continuing failure to adequately monitor physicians under its charge, Dr. Alex Zakharia is still on the active staffs at numerous Miami hospitals despite an admitted memory problem and pending perjury and fraud charges.

Dr. Zakharia, age 69, a Miami surgeon specializing in heart surgery, apparently suffers from increasing memory losses, due to a number of TIA (trans ischemic attack) he suffered in the last few years. Despite those worsening memory problems, and his role as the surgeon involved in a number of patients' deaths, a number of which resulted in medical malpractice claims, the State of Florida has not seen fit to suspend his ability to operate.

We are continually amazed at the State's lack of action in their monitoring of physicians, especially those involved in multiple patient deaths. We have unfortunately represented a number of families whose loved ones died from egregious malpractice. Yet despite our reporting those incidents to the State, including one doctor who changed medical records following the death of an infant, the State never issued more than a slap on the hand. Hopefully, as the public's awareness regarding such doctors grows, the State will be forced to deal with these matters in a manner which will better protect the public.

July 10, 2007

Florida Victims of Accidents Caused by Governmental Negligence Face Limited Recoveries

Many of our client's are surprise to learn that anyone injured by the negligent actions of any employee of the State of Florida, any of its political subdivisions, including those employees of a County or City, is limited, regardless of how seriously they are injured, to a maximum recovery of $100,000.00. This limitation or cap, which applies to car accidents, slip and falls, and even medical malpractice occurring at a County run hospital, is known as sovereign immunity.

The Florida Legislature passed this law, known as Florida Statute section 768.28, to shield governments from paying for all of the damages caused by their employee's negligence, while allegedly giving accident victims a source of recovery. Unfortunately, for Florida accident victims, especially those who are catastrophically injured, the $100,000.00 cap is woefully inadequate.

Only in the rarest of circumstances does the Florida Legislature entertain, much less pass, a "Claims Bill," which may provide an accident victim with a greater recovery, only if the Legislature and the Governor enact a specific law to help a specifically injured person. Even when the governmental entity, which caused the catastrophic injury, wants to pay the accident victim more than the $100,000.00 cap, the victim must go through the difficult process of pursing a Claims Bill.

We represented an unfortunate boy who sustained a near drowning, resulting in him being in a coma and ultimately dieing. Despite the agreement of the school district responsible for his brain damage, to pay an increased amount, the Florida Legislature delayed our client's recovery for more than 2 years.

We strongly believe this law and the procedures necessary to pursue claims against the government, needs to be changed.

July 3, 2007

Miami Disabled Children Group Home Shut Down Due To Neglect

In yet another example of the lack of supervision and inspection by the State of Florida, a group home for disabled children was finally closed down after a 12 year old autistic boy stopped breathing on a filed trip, and is now on a ventilator. Employees of the Rainbow Ranch Group Home attempted to forcibly restrain the child while in the group home's van.

Despite numerous past allegations of malpractice, including over medication, sexual abuse and malnourishment, The State of Florida did not close this facility until after this this tragic incident.

In our practice, we have unfortunately assisted numerous families with disabled children who are victims, either intentionally or negligently, of abuse and neglect at the hands of under-trained and not supervised group home workers.

Unfortunately, this is just another incident, in a long line of catastrophic injuries and deaths, which have occurred in disabled homes in Florida. We can only hope that the State of Florida will finally pay the proper attention to this growing epidemic and properly monitor these facilities.

June 27, 2007

Florida Supreme Court Holds Cruise Lines Not Liable for Doctor's Errors

In yet another blow to Florida residents and visitors, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that on-board doctors are not considered employees of the cruise lines who hire them. This means that the cruise lines are not responsible if those doctors commit malpractice while treating a passenger on board their ship.

The effect of this ruling is simple, if you are mistreated or injured due to the negligent actions of an on-board doctor, you cannot sue the cruise line for that doctor's negligent actions. Considering that most on-board doctors are from other countries and do not have malpractice insurance, it is likely that the injured victim will be unable to recovery anything for the damages they suffer at the hands of an on-board doctor.

Having represented dozens of cruise ship passengers, we cannot understand how an on-board doctor, who is specifically placed on a ship by the cruise line, for the benefit of their paying passengers, cannot be an employee of that cruise line. Cruise line passengers have no choice in the medical care they receive as they are essentially captive and in many instances, unable to leave the ships. If a passenger falls victim to illness, or sustains an on-board injury, such as a slip and fall, their only hope for medical care is with the on-board doctor.

Now, given the Court's ruling, passengers on cruise ships, whose tickets require them to file lawsuits in Florida, will be unable to hold the cruise line responsible for an on-board doctor's negligence.

June 23, 2007

Adult Children of Florida Malpractice Victims Cannot Recover Damages

Florida Laws relating to medical malpractice cases do not allow adult children, whose parents die from medical malpractice, to recover damages from the wrongful death of their parents. In all other types of cases, in which a parent dies from the negligence of another, including car accidents, truck accident or even boating accidents, an adult child, that is, someone older than 25, may recover for their parent's wrongful death, assuming that parent is unmarried at the time of their death.

A number of years ago, doctors and hospitals convinced the Florida Legislature to pass a law excluding adult survivors of medical malpractice victims as Plaintiffs. This means, if you are 25 or older, and your parent is divorced or a widow(er) when they die from medical malpractice, then you are precluded from recovering pain and suffering damages against the doctor or hospital who caused their death.

The Florida Supreme Court has also recently issued an opinion holding this law, which protects doctors and hospitals, to the detriment of all surviving adult children, is constitutional. We have had to regrettably turn away numerous clients, who not only suffered due to the loss of their parent, but are doubly injured by their inability to seek justice on behalf of their deceased parent.

We can only hope that enough Floridians become aware of this limitation and write to their legislators to try to correct this inequity.