Indian River Mem’l Hosp. v. Browne, 44 So. 3d 237 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2010)

The estate of a hospital patient who passed away after falling off of an emergency room stretcher brought on the original lawsuit in this case against the hospital for negligence. A motion to dismiss the estate’s claim for negligence was submitted to the trial court by the hospital based on the fact that this was a medical negligence claim and the pre-suit notice requirements for such a claim for not followed properly. The trial court denied the motion and an appeal was filed by the hospital.

In January of 2008, Thomas Browne, 76-year-old patient of Indian River Memorial Hospital had been admitted into the emergency room. At some point during his stay at the hospital, Browne fell from a medical stretcher and sustained traumatic injuries to his head, which ultimately caused him to die. The estate for Browne brought on a lawsuit against the hospital, claiming Browne was initially admitted to the hospital emergency room with problems including being disoriented as well as confused. The allegations also claimed that the hospital was negligent in their supervision of Browne when they left him alone with the guardrail on the bed being left unsecured.

Though the trial court denied the motion submitted by the hospital to dismiss the claim because the victim’s estate alleged negligence when it should have been a medical negligence claim, the court of appeals ultimately reversed that ruling and sent the case back down to the trial level. What the hospital argued from the beginning of this lawsuit was that, procedurally, the estate’s negligence claim did not follow guidelines for ‘pre-suit’ notice under what, the hospital believed, needed to be a medical negligence claim.

Florida Statute 766.106 is what governs pre-suit requirements in claims of medical negligence. These types of claims are ones involving the “rendering of”, or “failure to render”, medical assistance or aid. Ordinary negligence claims not involving medical treatment or assistance are not the same as medical negligence claims imposed under the above statute.

An example to help clarify can be a negligence claim that involves a slip and fall accident at a hospital does not necessarily mean that it must be filed as a medical negligence claim. Unless a person is receiving skilled medical assistance that requires a judgment call by an industry professional, a claim of negligence can be filed.

When there is an elevated duty of a medical professional that is owed to a particular person, and an injury results because of that professional’s conduct, then the claim may need to be filed as a medical negligence claim. Because the victim in this case was under medical treatment at the hospital when the negligent act occurred, the claim filed by his estate needed to be submitted as a medical negligence claim, and not as an ordinary negligence claim.

It is extremely important to remember that every type of personal injury claim has specific elements and procedural guidelines that all must be met and followed. In this case, because the claim was noticed alleged properly, the hospital was able to find a loophole in their favor creating a drawn out process for the victim’s surviving family. If you or a love one have been injured and you feel it might be due to negligence on the hospital’s part, then contact the Fort Lauderdale injury attorneys at Madalon Law for your free consultation.