Medical malpractice cases can be complicated: they often require a wide variety of evidence in order for an injured person to establish a hospital or doctor’s liability. In Young v. Naples Community Hospital, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals explains that there are also procedural requirements that a person suing for negligence must satisfy before bringing the suit.
Ms. Young was taken by ambulance to NCH late one evening in February 2006 after suffering severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Hospital staff performed a number of tests, including a CT scan that was read by radiologist Dr. Grennan after 3:30 a.m. the next day. Grennan, who was in Switzerland at the time said the results of the scan were “unremarkable.” She was admitted to the hospital based on other test results, however, and a magnetic resonance angiogram conducted later the same day revealed a defect in Young’s mesenteric artery. The previous CT scan was then re-evaluated by other doctors, who determined that Young had a blood clot in the artery. Surgery to remove the clot was performed an hour later, but she remained in the hospital for nearly four weeks due to complications related to the surgery. She was discharged from the hospital April 12, 2008.
Under Florida law, a person suing for medical malpractice is required to first conduct an “investigation” to determine whether there are reasonable grounds on which to believe that the person’s injury was caused by medical negligence. The plaintiff must also notify prospective defendants of his or her intent to sue before filing a complaint in state court, including an expert opinion corroborating that there are reasonable grounds to support the claim. This notices must be given within two years of the incident on which the malpractice claim is based.
Young’s attorney provided pre-suit notice to Naples Radiologists, the company that provides NCH’s radiology services, in April 2008. The attorney later provided notice in June 2008 to Nighthawk Radiology, which provides overnight radiology services for Naples Radiologists, and Dr. Grennan, who worked as an independent contractor for Nighthawk. The notice was just outside the two year statutory notice period.
Young and her husband filed a medical malpractice suit against NCH Naples Radiologists, Nighthawk and Grennan in August 2008, alleging that Grennan was negligent in reviewing her CT scan and that the delay in the blood clot removal that resulted from this negligence caused the complications associated with the procedure. A trial court granted summary judgment to Nighthawk and Grennan, however, finding that Young failed to notify them of the claims within the required two year window.
Reversing the decision on appeal, the Second District held that Young’s pre-suit notice to Naples Radiologists also applied to nighthawk and Dr. Grennan – and was therefore timely – because the parties had a “legal relationship.”
“Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.650(b)(1) provides that ‘notice of intent to initiate litigation sent by certified mail to and received by any prospective defendant shall operate as notice to the person and any other prospective defendant who bears a legal relationship to the prospective defendant receiving the notice,’” the Court explained. Here, the Court said Young clearly established that Naples Radiologists, Nighthawk and Grennan had contractual relationships. Specifically, Naples Radiologists and Nighthawk had a contract under which the latter provided services for the former. In addition, Nighthawk contracted with Grennan to perform certain radiology services on its behalf. “These are both business relationships defined by the law of contracts that bestow legal rights and legal obligations upon the parties to the relationships,” the Court concluded.
As a result, the Court reversed the summary judgment for Nighthawk and Grennan.
This case is a good example of the complicated legal issues that must be considered before bringing medical malpractice claims against hospitals, doctors and other health professionals. An experienced personal injury attorney is vital to pursuing a claim after a medical error causes injury. If you or a loved one was injured by poor medical care, contact the South Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. Anidjar & Levine represents clients throughout the area, including in Coral Springs, Hollywood and Pompano Beach, and offers a free initial consultation from our Fort Lauderdale offices. Call the firm today at 800-747-3733.
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