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Florida Supreme Court Expands Liability in Certain Injury Cases


Florida Supreme Court Expands Liability in Certain Injury Cases 

The Florida Supreme Court recently handed down a reform of standard jury instructions that allows defendants in medical malpractice and injury cases to be held accountable for additional injury suffered by patients who were forced to seek corrective care. 

In Re: Standard Jury Instructions in Civil Cases – Report No. 13.02, the high court authorized the proposed changes, as submitted by the court’s Committee on Standard Jury Instruction. Specifically, the committee had asked to reform Standard Jury Instructions Section 501.01 on damages.

Naples injury lawyers understand the new paragraph added to this section of approved jury instructions allows for the patient victim to collect damages from a defendant whose negligent actions prompted the patient to seek additional medical care that resulted in additional injuries.

So for example, if you are injured in a car accident, seek reasonable medical treatment for those injuries and are subsequently injured by the doctor, you can pursue damages against the at-fault driver for the injuries you incurred as a result of the treatment.

The court conceded that this is a complex area of law, but that this particular scenario was one that demanded the court’s clarification.

One of the cases that prompted the review was Pedro v. Baber, a Hillsborough County case that was reviewed in 2012 by the Florida Second District Court of Appeals. Here, the defendant rear-ended the plaintiff. The victim drove herself to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with whiplash.

A doctor recommended surgery, and after several months of receiving non-surgical treatment, she agreed to undergo surgery. At first, it seemed to help dull the pain. Eventually, though, her lower back pain increased.

The plaintiff sued the other driver, alleging that he had caused her permanent injuries, and that his wife was vicariously liable, as she was the owner of the vehicle.

The defendants in turn attacked the doctor’s credibility, and asserted the surgery wasn’t necessary, had exacerbated the victim’s injuries and that he over-charged for his services. The defendants contended they should not have to pay for medical treatment that was unnecessary and/or negligent.

Following complex medical testimony from both sides, the plaintiff’s closing arguments asserted that the surgery was unnecessary, and had permanently injured her – but that the driver who caused the accident was at-fault.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that the at-fault driver’s negligence had caused permanent injury and that all resulting medical expenses relating to the accident should be paid by the defendants.

The defense appealed, but the appellate court affirmed.

This and a few others cases like it, however, prompted the Florida Supreme Court to specifically address the issue by writing the jury instruction language.

The court also harkened back to the standard established in the 1977 case of Stuart v. Hertz Corp. That case outlined the general rule that an active tortfeasor in a car accident case can’t bring a third-party action for indemnity against a doctor for damages directly attributable to malpractice that aggravated the injuries caused by the crash.

That is, neither is entitled to indemnity from the other.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the plaintiff can’t pursue damages from the doctor for medical malpractice, though.

Each case is going to be different. Given the complexities, it’s vital that injured parties seek a law firm with experienced injury attorneys.

How We Can Help
If you, a friend or a family member find themselves in a situation such as this, please call the Law Office of Scott A. Ferris, P.A. at 305 670-3330 right away. Scott A. Ferris, Esq. is a licensed civil law attorney who has been practicing law since 1987. He is available whenever you need him to pursue your rights. Please learn about our firm at www.FerrisLawFirm.com.

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