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Eleventh Circuit rejects plaintiff’s res ipso loquitur and spoliation claims against defendant cruise line in lawsuit involving collapsed stateroom chair

On May 29, 2020, in Rockledge HMA, LLC, et al. v. Lawley, No. 5D19-1223, the Florida Fifth DCA granted a defendant’s petition for certiorari in a medical negligence case and quashed a trial court’s ruling denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for failure to comply with Florida’s medical negligence presuit requirement. The plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged that the decedent patient had been taken to the defendant hospital’s ER with symptoms that required her admission to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), but no beds were available in the ICU at that time. The complaint alleged that rather than transferring her to another hospital that did have ICU beds available, the attending medical personnel simply placed her on a stretcher in the ER hallway for seven hours, culminating in her death. The complaint further alleged that the decision not to transfer the patient was made for internal “policy and practice to maintain admissions for revenue generating purposes.” Based on the foregoing, the plaintiff chose not to treat the case as a medical negligence case and did not engage in Chapter 766’s medical negligence presuit procedures. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss for this failure, concluding that that the wrongful acts complained of were not directly related to improper application of medical services and did not require the use of professional judgment or skill. On certiorari review, the Fifth DCA noted that the Florida Legislature has defined a claim for “medical negligence” or “medical malpractice” as “a claim, arising out of the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical care or services,” § 766.106(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2014), § 95.11(4)(b), Fla. Stat. (2014), and the Florida Supreme Court has interpreted this statutory language to mean that for an action to sound in medical malpractice, the act from which the claim arises must be directly related to medical care or services, which require the use of professional judgment or skill. See Nat'l Deaf Acad., LLC v. Townes, 242 So. 3d 303, 311-12 (Fla. 2018). The Fifth DCA concluded that the damages the plaintiff sought were “inescapably linked to the alleged failure to provide appropriate medical care,” and that the claim consequently arose out of the rendering of, or failure to render, medical care and services.”

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