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Although it’s common knowledge among Florida’s medical malpractice practitioners that state law requires a complaint for medical negligence to be accompanied by an expert affidavit, it is not uncommon for some to not realize that simply having the affidavit is not necessarily sufficient to comply with the requirements of the law. Indeed, courts in our state regularly dismiss medical negligence cases supported by an affidavit because the plaintiff fails either to provide sufficient notice to the defendant of his or her intent to sue or to provide the defendant with sufficient access to information about the expert during this notice period. These subsidiary requirements under Florida’s medical negligence laws were at issue in a recent decision from Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, Morris v. Muniz.

Morris arose from an alleged act of medical negligence that occurred at Gulf Coast Medical Center. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the negligence of various medical professionals resulted in the death of her daughter, who died three days after the plaintiff gave birth to her. Following her loss, the plaintiff initiated a wrongful death lawsuit against various defendants, including Gulf Coast and several medical professionals involved in the birth. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff failed to comply with pre-suit notice and investigation requirements under Fla. Stat. Section 766.205(2). The plaintiff opposed the motion, but the trial court dismissed the action, finding that the plaintiff failed to provide the defendants with reasonable access to information regarding her expert during the pre-suit investigation period.  The plaintiff then brought the current appeal.

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Given that the Florida law imposes specific evidentiary standards, pre-suit filing requirements, and other obligations on medical negligence cases, it follows that properly distinguishing medical negligence from standard negligence is important for successfully asserting and proving claims that ambiguously skirt the line between standard negligence and medical negligence. This issue is at the center of a recent decision from the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Buck v. Columbia Hospital Corporation Of South Broward. In Buck, the court needed to determine whether it was proper for a trial court to dismiss a wrongful death case for failing to comply with the medical negligence pre-suit requirements of Chapter 766, Florida Statutes.

The act of negligence resulting in the death at issue in this case occurred in May 2012. At that time, the decedent was brought to Westside Regional Medical Center in Broward County and admitted for complications related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Two days following her admission, the decedent was scheduled to have x-rays performed and was transported to the radiology floor. Prior to the decedent’s x-rays being taken, transport techs at the medical facility lifted the decedent from the transport gurney in order to place her on the x-ray table. In the course of this movement, the decedent was dropped on the x-ray table, which caused the decedent to sustain a fracture of her lumbar spine. Various factors, including the decedent’s age and medical condition, limited the treatment options for the broken back. The decedent’s condition deteriorated thereafter, and the plaintiff alleges that the broken back ultimately caused the death of the decedent.

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