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Court Sides With Tampa General In Malpractice Case

Stethoscope and gavel against a white backdrop.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

An appeals court Wednesday upheld a ruling that cleared Tampa General Hospital from potential liability in a medical-malpractice case stemming from the death of a patient during surgery.

The case focused heavily on Tampa General's relationship with the University of South Florida, which employed two physicians involved in the surgery. Tampa General is the primary teaching hospital for the university's College of Medicine.

The estate of Annie Godwin sued Tampa General, the university and physicians Jaime Sanchez and David Shapiro after Godwin died on the operating table during a 2009 surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, said Wednesday's ruling by a panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Godwin suffered a tear in a large vein during the surgery and died because of heavy bleeding, the ruling said. Tampa General argued in the case that the physicians were employed by the university and that the hospital had delegated the duty of care and any potential liability to USF.

A circuit judge ruled in favor of Tampa General, pointing at least in part to documents signed by Godwin that acknowledged the physicians were not employees of the hospital. In a 14-page decision Wednesday, the appeals court said the circuit judge properly granted summary judgment for the hospital.

"No disputed material facts undermine the trial court's conclusion that the physicians were not TGH (Tampa General) employees or agents," said the decision, written by Judge Edward LaRose and joined by judges John Badalamenti and James Case.

"In addition to the affiliation agreement and the three forms signed by Mrs. Godwin, we are mindful that USF controlled its physicians. … Our record contains no factual disputes as to the nature of the relationship; the physicians were employees of USF, paid by USF, and assigned by USF. USF, not TGH, controlled their activities."