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Court Backs Psychiatric Patient In Beating Lawsuit

A doctor in a hospital hallway holding a stethoscope
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A state appeals court Wednesday cleared the way for a lawsuit stemming from injuries suffered by a psychiatric patient who was beaten by another patient at a Miami-Dade County facility. 

The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a circuit-court ruling that dismissed patient Craig Simmons’ lawsuit against Jackson Memorial Hospital, which operated the facility.

Simmons alleged negligence by the hospital in the 2013 incident in which another patient, Gerald Allen, beat him with a handrail that had been removed from the wall of a hallway, according to Wednesday’s ruling.

Jackson Memorial argued that the case fell under the state’s medical-malpractice laws and, as a result, should be dismissed because Simmons did not comply with a pre-suit notice requirement in malpractice cases.

A circuit judge agreed with Jackson Memorial, but Simmons, who argued the case involved negligence — not medical malpractice — appealed.

Typical negligence cases do not have the same pre-suit notice requirements as medical-malpractice cases.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court Wednesday agreed with Simmons’ arguments.

“Based on our … review of Simmons’ amended complaint, we are unable to conclude that the act from which Simmons’ claim arises --- the attack on Simmons by Allen --- is directly related to (the) hospital’s medical care or services, which would require the use of professional judgment or skill,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Edwin Scales and joined by Chief Judge Leslie Rothenberg and Judge Richard Suarez. “Therefore, we do not characterize Simmons’ claims as ones for medical malpractice; and consequently, Simmons was not required to give (the) hospital pre-suit notice.”