Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

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doctors clothes 2The idea of “separation of powers” is a basic component of the American legal system. The legislative branch passes laws, the executive branch enforces those laws, and, when necessary, the judicial branch interprets the laws.

In the recent case of North Broward Hospital District v. Kalitan, the District Court of Appeal for the Fourth District of Florida was asked to determine whether a previous ruling of the Florida Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of a cap on damages was applicable to a particular medical malpractice suit.

The previous case, Estate of McCall v. United States, 134 So. 3d 894 (Fla. 2014), held that Florida Statutes § 766.118, which purported to limit noneconomic damages awards in wrongful death cases arising from an act of medical negligence, was unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution.

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clock3One of the most important considerations in any lawsuit is the statute of limitations, the period that the law allows for filing suit. Failure to file suit within the time afforded by the limitations period usually means that there can be no recovery, regardless of the merits of the action.

That said, there are a few, limited exceptions to the general requirements of the statute of limitations. While it is always best to err on the side of caution and file sooner rather than later, the exceptions can come in very handy in some cases.

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Biologist preparing cryopreserved samples for IVF

Generally, there are two types of damages available in personal injury cases:  economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages compensate an injured person for things like lost wages, property damage, and medical expenses. Noneconomic damages provide remediation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and similar losses.

Several years ago, the Florida legislature passed a statute that placed a cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. Recently, the statute supreme court was called upon to determine whether the cap could be applied retroactively.

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LawThe settlement of lawsuits is encouraged under Florida law, so much so that the so-called “Florida Settlement Rule” states that a party who refuses a settlement offer can be held liable for the attorney fees and costs incurred by the maker of the offer if the maker is successful at trial. Of course, there are many stipulations that come with the rule, and the issue of whether or not the rule was complied with is a frequent source of litigation in and of itself.

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Safety Idea before Child Birth

Pregnancy can be a long and stressful process for most women. When it comes delivery time, men and women included can become overwhelmed with both excitement and concern. Bringing a new life into the world is a wonderful miracle and is often one of the most beautiful, natural occurrences known to humanity.

However, giving birth certainly doesn’t come without its concerns and worry for expectant parents. Sometimes a safe delivery can sometimes bring more stress than happiness, especially if malpractice exists during delivery. Paying attention to several important details can help ensure a safe delivery for the child and fewer concerns for parents.

Prepare a Birth Plan

Having a birth plan is a great way to ensure that parents take the time to go through the details, potential hazards, and steps to ensure a healthy and safe delivery. While some situations do arise that can cause a change in a birth plan, such as an emergency c-section, having a birth plan to stick to can help guide parents and their doctor through a safe delivery process.

Furthermore, discussing a plan with your partner or whoever is with you for support can help assist you. This can include personal, cultural, and religious beliefs concerning medicine, procedures, and birth preferences. Having extra support can provide you with a strict following to your plan.

Know Your Doctor

Getting to know your doctor and his or her team can not only ensure that delivery goes as smooth as possible but it can put many of your worries and concerns at ease.

Researching and finding the perfect doctor is something that can take time during a pregnancy, especially as a mother or parents go through the process and stages, but it’s important to meet with your doctor as many times as necessary before the big day. If your doctor has a team they work with, get to know them as well. In case an emergency occurs and your doctor is unavailable, knowing who is next in line can be a big help in alleviating additional worry and stress.

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Once you choose a doctor, discuss your birth plan with him or her before and during the delivery to remind them of your preferences. Remember, if a nurse or doctor is not answering your questions, be persistent. You have a right to know what’s going on with your body and the baby.

Find a True Support Team

Regardless of whether you have a partner, a trusted friend or a family member, having extra support in the room can be beneficial. Having support can help you make immediate decisions and even help you in choosing medications or if other issues arise.

A trusted person can also help a mother understand what a doctor or nurse might be telling you. Make sure the doctor knows that whoever is in the room with you should be aware of what is going on. Having a family member around can also ensure that you know what medications you’re being given and how much.

If everyone involved is privy to the information and details regarding the delivery process, then this will ensure it will go as smoothly as possible.

Contact a Compassionate Lawyer

As stressful and exciting as the delivery room can be, worrying about a healthy and safe delivery for your baby can be the most stressful thing. If you or your baby has suffered injuries because of the negligence of a medical provider, don’t hesitate to contact a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney. Contact Cohn & Smith online or call (954)-431-8100 for a free consultation.

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As an Aventura medical malpractice attorney, I was very interested in a report on a claim filed by the widow of a man who fell seriously ill after surgery at the Mayo Clinic Florida. According to a Nov. 9 article from First Coast News, Peggy Wolford of Stuart is suing the clinic for medical malpractice leading to the wrongful death of her husband, Dennis Wolford, in 2008. Dennis Wolford received two liver transplants at the clinic, in 2006 and 2008, but was allegedly infected with hepatitis C while a patient there. Peggy Wolford’s suit claims the most likely source of the infection was an employee at the clinic who was fired and criminally charged for stealing patients’ IV drips of a painkiller in order to get high. Peggy Wolford’s suit says the medical expenses related to the transplants and infections have cost her the couple’s home and forced her to declare bankruptcy.

The clinic made news in August when it released a press release saying an employee had caused a hepatitis C outbreak. Steven Beumel, 47, was a radiation technician at the clinic before he was arrested for stealing drugs to feed his painkiller addiction. He is accused of injecting himself with Fentanyl, a painkiller, intended for patients undergoing invasive procedures. After he was done, he would allegedly replace the drug with plain saline solution, but re-use the needle he had used on himself — exposing patients to anything he had in his system and depriving them of the painkiller. A report from September says at least three people were believed infected with hepatitis C, and at least two have died. Wolford’s lawsuit alleges that her husband died from hepatitis C acquired at the clinic, almost certainly from Beumel.

As a Davie medical malpractice lawyer, I suspect Peggy Wolford will have a strong case. The hepatitis C outbreak at the Mayo Clinic Florida was an important story for the local press at the time, and one report suggested that the clinic and health authorities knew about the outbreak long before they figured out where it came from. Affected families can reasonably argue that the clinic failed to supervise Beumel or take as much corrective action as the situation required. In most situations, employers are legally responsible for the actions of their employees while at work, and for supervising those employees adequately. Dennis Wolford’s situation was particularly horrifying because hepatitis attacks the liver, and Wolford was in the clinic to receive a liver transplant. In that situation, the clinic would have a special duty to prevent anything that weakens the liver and immune system further.

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A Broward County teenager and her family made headlines Oct. 5 when they won $4.3 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit. According to an Oct. 5 article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Kroll family sued doctors at Coral Springs Medical Center for allegedly misdiagnosing a virus that affected their daughter Haylee when she was just a newborn. Now 15 and a sophomore at Deerfield Beach High School, Haylee has vision problems, a learning disability and permanent cirrhosis of the liver attributed to the illness, called an enterovirus, that affected her as an infant. The medical center was not a defendant in the case, but the jury found two doctors, Jose Colindres and Sedigheh Zolfaghari, liable for Haylee’s injuries. Two other doctors were found not liable.

The enteroviruses are a group of viruses with effects ranging from the common cold to polio, meningitis and other serious illnesses. They are a serious threat to newborn babies who have not yet fully developed their immune systems. The first sign of trouble for the Krolls was when Haylee developed bruises and jaundice; a few days later, she had a brain aneurysm. They said doctors at first told them not to worry, then said to expect Haylee’s death. They contended in their suit that doctors failed to run blood or liver tests that could have helped them diagnose the enterovirus sooner, helping them to avoid the permanent damage to Haylee’s body. The case was first filed when Haylee was around two years old, but was only decided now because of scheduling issues and a 2007 mistrial.

The Sun-Sentinel offered a video interview with Haylee and her mother, Cynthia Kroll:

 

The $4.3 million the family won may seem exceptionally large to some observers. But as a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney, I am not surprised by such a verdict in this type of case. Medical malpractice claims must cover all of the costs of the injury, including all past and future costs of medical treatment, over the victim’s entire lifetime. Unfortunately, brain injuries like Haylee’s will never go away — they will always affect their victims to some degree, and likely always need some amount of extra medical attention. For the same reason, Haylee will always struggle with her vision and learning problems — that is, she is permanently disabled. The $4.3 million judgment covers all of these injuries and others, as well as compensation for her family’s suffering.

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As a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawyer, I was pleased to see an article in the Wall Street Journal showing that at least one Florida hospital is actively taking steps to reduce its rate of medical mistakes. The Aug. 24 article focuses on the experience of the Sosa family of Miami, whose six-year-old daughter, Kaelyn, was left permanently brain-damaged when she was just 18 months old. Kaelyn’s mother, Sandy Sosa, took her to the emergency room after a bump on her head. Hospital staff sedated Kaelyn and put her on a ventilator to help her breathe while she underwent an MRI. Unfortunately, the tube connecting Kaelyn to the ventilator was knocked out, and hospital staff didn’t notice until Kaelyn’s brain was starved of oxygen, leaving her with serious physical and mental disabilities.

The Sosas decided not to file a Miami medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital, which agreed to provide free medical care for life to Kaelyn. But in response to that and other mistakes, the hospital, Baptist Children’s Hospital, departed from the typical hospital strategy after a serious mistake — silence intended to prevent lawsuits. Instead, the Wall Street Journal said, Baptist Children’s openly admitted its mistake, apologized and worked hard to learn from it in order to reduce similar mistakes in the future. In fact, Sandy Sosa now serves as the community liaison for the hospital’s committee on quality and patient safety.

According to the article, the strategy seems to work. The University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, which also has an aggressive policy of learning from patient safety mistakes, said it was sued 40% less between 2004 and 2009 than it was between 1999 and 2004, even though it is performing 23% more procedures. More importantly, its policies on patient safety seem to produce fewer mistakes. For example, after hospital employees left a sponge in a patient after surgery, the hospital made a policy of X-raying all patients at risk for “retained objects,” even if a count of the objects turned up no discrepancy. In three years, this policy has turned up eight patients with an object left in their bodies after a manual count found no missing objects. All of that is despite the fact that, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Quality and Management, medical errors are actually increasing by about 1% each year.

As a Boynton Beach medical malpractice attorney, I have to chuckle at the article’s apparent conclusion — that owning up to mistakes and taking corrective action seems to reduce medical malpractice lawsuits. Of course aggressive corrective action reduces lawsuits — it reduces the medical mistakes that cause those lawsuits, and shows families that the hospital is serious about patient safety. In my experience, patients and their families do not look for reasons to sue; a lawsuit is a long and often emotionally difficult process with no guarantee of success.

Rather, medical malpractice victims go forward with their legal claims because medical mistakes can be extremely expensive to treat, and to prevent the same tragedy from befalling other families. For example, the physical therapy Kaelyn gets for free could cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. This article suggests that hospitals could save a lot of money in the long run — and more importantly, thousands of lives — by learning from their mistakes and treating injured patients with honesty and inclusiveness.

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The mother of a 12-year-old boy who died at a state-run group home for kids has sued, the Miami Herald reported May 20. The lawsuit by Martha Quesada alleges that her son, Denis Maltez, was given too many psychiatric medications and not properly monitored by doctors. Maltez, who had severe autism, was on an outing with the state-funded Rainbow Ranch group home in 2007 when he died of serotonin syndrome, a rare but life-threatening reaction to an overdose of drugs or combination of drugs that includes many psychiatric medications.

Maltez had violent outbursts, including an attack on his sister that led Quesada to put him in the group home. On the day of his death in May of 2007, he had gone out with other kids from the home to get haircuts, but became violent with group home staffers. He became unresponsive after staffers restrained him on his stomach inside their van, then died. The next month, Rainbow Ranch was closed by the state.

After Maltez arrived at Rainbow Ranch, the Herald said, he was switched to the on-staff psychiatrist there, who saw Maltez once during his year at the home. That doctor, Steven Kaplan, put Maltez on four drugs: two antipsychotic drugs, a tranquilizer and an anti-seizure drug that can be used as a mood stabilizer. The lawsuit alleges that these drugs were used as a chemical restraint to control his behavior and caused him to sleep through school. During his year at the home, teachers sent Maltez to the hospital because of over-medication concerns. The anti-seizure drug was reduced on the second hospital’s recommendation, but increased again six months later. Maltez was also the subject of an anonymous call to the Florida Department of Children and Families child abuse hotline suggesting he was over-medicated.

Doctors consider serotonin syndrome a type of poisoning. It’s caused by excess production of a brain chemical called serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, metabolism and appetite. That excess production is caused by too many drugs or the wrong combination of drugs that affect brain activity, including antidepressants, opioids, central nervous system stimulators, some street drugs and certain herbs and amino acids. Symptoms include tremors and muscle contractions, elevated heart rate, sweating, confusion, agitation and hallucination.

Though a lawsuit’s complaint only tells one side of the story, these facts seem right on target for a South Florida medical malpractice lawsuit. The symptoms of serotonin toxicity could easily be mistaken for bad behavior, especially in a child who staffers knew to be aggressive and may not have been able to communicate well. If Maltez really was over-medicated and under-supervised, his family would have a strong case for their Miami medical malpractice wrongful death claim.

Our firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, represents children and adults throughout South Florida who were seriously hurt or even killed by the negligence of a medical professional. If you believe you or a loved one suffered an injury or illness because of bad decisions by doctors and others, we would like to help. Our Cooper City medical malpractice lawyers have more than 25 years of experience helping seriously injured people win the money they need for medical treatment, living expenses and compensation for an injury, disability or wrongful death. To learn more at a free, confidential consultation, please contact us online or call our main office in Broward County at (954) 431-8100 today.

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As a Hollywood medical malpractice lawyer, I was interested to see that South Florida was the subject of a May 20 Time magazine story about the cost of health care. As the president begins to look at reforming medical malpractice laws, the magazine pointed out that Miami has the highest health care costs of any major city, according to one study, spending 20% more than the national average. The magazine gave several possible reasons for the problem, including South Florida’s very high rate of uninsured doctors.

The article said a full one-third of doctors in Miami are uninsured, a situation that most hospitals and some states outright forbid. (I wrote about this last year, after a South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on the subject. The number is almost as high here in Broward County, where about a quarter of doctors are uninsured.) Because these doctors could lose personal assets in a South Florida medical malpractice lawsuit, the magazine said, they practice “defensive medicine,” meaning they order tests and hospitalization that probably aren’t necessary, just to be safe. As a result, Miami-Dade has more MRI machines than Canada and one of the nation’s highest hospital readmission rates. The situation is complicated by rampant Medicare fraud and a lack of primary-care physicians that drives patients into the arms of specialists.

While not surprising, this issue just underscores the importance of carrying medical malpractice insurance. The article notes that a history of bad medical care in Florida has made malpractice insurance very expensive in this state. As an attorney who also carries malpractice insurance, I can sympathize — but I disagree strongly that not carrying any insurance at all is a good answer.

Uninsured doctors in Florida are required to keep no more than $100,000 on hand in case they do get sued; they are free to hide the rest under the names of their spouses and children. That $100,000 may be enough to cover some medical mistakes, but healthcare expenses can rise above six figures very quickly. In the most serious cases, they can rise to seven figures. That means patients who are injured by uninsured doctors could be stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills because of a doctor’s mistake, even after a successful Deerfield Beach medical malpractice lawsuit. (The same is true with medical malpractice damage caps.) Meanwhile, insurance companies, whose prices are the underlying problem, see no negative effects at all.

If you or a loved one is the victim of a serious medical mistake in South Florida, our firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, would like to help. Based in Hollywood/Pembroke Pines, we serve clients throughout South Florida who lost a family member or were seriously hurt by the carelessness of a doctor, hospital or other medical professional or institution. In a Palm Beach medical malpractice lawsuit, you can win the money you need to pay medical bills, make ends meet if you cannot work and compensate you for any disability or wrongful death. To learn more at a free, confidential consultation, please call us at (954) 431-8100 or contact us through the Internet today.

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