Florida Court Decides Whether Doctor is Liable for Patient’s Death

When a patient goes into a drug and alcohol detox facility, they expect to receive adequate care. In a tragic case out of Florida, a man died at a drug detox facility. His estate sued the doctor and the detox facility itself. Specifically, they allege that the doctor was negligent in his supervision of the nurse on duty on the evening before the plaintiff’s untimely death. If you are concerned that you or a loved one has been injured or died as a result of the negligence of someone else, an experienced South Florida personal injury attorney can help you hold the wrongdoers accountable.

Events Leading up to the Patient’s Death 

The plaintiff was purportedly admitted to the detox center with noticeable track marks. The defendant physician is the medical director of the facility. However, the doctor acts as an overseer and it is up to the advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) to do the direct supervision of patients at the facility. It is also up to the ARNPs to decide whether the facility is adequate for the patient’s needs or whether they need to be admitted to the hospital.

Before leaving for the evening, the ARNP allegedly checked on the plaintiff. At that time, he was sitting upright and talking and his vital signs were improving. She claimed that she planned to begin the detox process the next morning. Unfortunately, the plaintiff died sometime early that morning. The cause of death was endocarditis, a heart infection common in intravenous drug users.

Negligent Supervision

One of the claims brought by the representatives of the decedent is for negligent supervision. An employer can be held liable for the actions of their employees in certain circumstances. Negligent supervision is one of those. This is when the employer is not acting reasonably in terms of supervising their employee to the extent that it makes them liable for the actions or inactions taken by that employee. Specifically, the plaintiff is alleging that the physician was negligent in their supervision of the ARNP who last checked on the patient.

After the plaintiff prevailed at the lower court, the physician appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida, who heard this case. The physician argued that it was error for the lower court to preclude him from testifying that he was not at the facility at the time of the an’s death. He also argued that the jury instructions were improper.

The appeals court here agreed with the physician that he should have been able to testify about the fact that he was not on the premises when the patient died and didn’t even know the patient existed until after the fact. The court here held that this information could have influenced a juror in either direction about whether the physician was negligent. Therefore, as relevant evidence the testimony should have been allowed.

The appeals court also agreed with the physician that the jury instructions were incorrect. The instructions given explained the laws around how many medical facilities a physician could supervise, as part of the plaintiff’s argument that the physician was spreading himself too thin. However, as there was never any evidence introduced that showed that the physician’s workload was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s death. Thus, the case was reversed and remanded for a new trial.

Contact an Experienced South Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today!

If a loved one has died due to the fault of someone else, you may be able to recover damages on their behalf. The skilled South Florida personal injury attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can help you to get justice and the damages you deserve. Call Donaldson & Weston at 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free, confidential consultation today!

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