Articles Tagged with Wrongful Death

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shutterstock_668481628-300x200In a brand-new opinion, Ruiz v. Tenet Hialeah Healthsystem, Inc., et al., the Supreme Court of Florida reinforced that the concept of causation in medical malpractice is broad and should be left to a jury. The fact pattern in Ruiz involved a patient who was misdiagnosed with a tumor instead of multiple myeloma. Without ordering a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, the treating neurosurgeon recommended a surgery to remove the “tumor”. During the surgery, the patient, Ms. Espinosa, went into cardiac arrest due to undiagnosed cardiac risk factors and passed away.

Ms. Espinosa’s estate brought a wrongful death medical malpractice case against a host of doctors and the hospital. One of the defendants was an anesthesiologist, Dr. Lorenzo, who had failed to recognize abnormal test results during the pre-operative clearance. The estate contended that had the defendant anesthesiologist pronounced these abnormalities, the surgery would have been cancelled and Ms. Espinosa would not have died.

The defendant doctor sought to have the case dismissed based on a failure to prove causation, e.g., that he was the legal cause of the patient’s death. Causation is a legal concept that bridges the gap between a defendant’s wrongdoing (negligence) and the damages sought by the plaintiff. In every personal injury and medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the legal and proximate cause of the injuries and damages that she is claiming.

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If you have lost a loved one due the negligence of another person, the last thing you need is to be bombarded with questions about the status of your relationship with the deceased. Last month, the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Florida clarified this issue in a written opinion in Domino’s Pizza v. Wiederhold, discussing when a plaintiff qualifies as a “surviving spouse” for a wrongful death lawsuit.

The court explored the tragic case of an engaged couple that married after a disastrously life-altering car accident. The plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle with her then-fiancée, who was forced to swerve into a median when a vehicle owned by a Domino’s franchisee suddenly pulled out in front of them. The car overturned a few times before coming to final rest in a ditch. The accident immediately left the man a quadriplegic, while the woman was unharmed. A month after the accident the man sued Domino’s, the franchisee owner, and the driver of the franchisee’s vehicle. The couple subsequently moved forward with their commitment and married before the man died a year later due to accident-related injuries. After her husband passed away, the woman was substituted as the plaintiff and filed an amended complaint to include a claim for wrongful death damages.

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