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Health News Florida

Lawsuit Over Patient Death Tossed Out

Gavel and a stethoscope
Flickr Creative Commons
A South Florida appeals court Wednesday ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit stemming from the death of a woman after she was transferred from a hospital to a treatment facility and allegedly did not receive medications.

Pointing to a notice requirement in medical-malpractice cases, a South Florida appeals court Wednesday ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit stemming from the death of a woman after she was transferred from a hospital to a treatment facility and allegedly did not receive medications.

A panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned a Broward County circuit judge’s ruling, which allowed the case against the South Broward Hospital District and Henderson Behavioral Health to move forward.

The case was filed by the estate of Daniela Cortes, who died four days after being transferred from a hospital overseen by the district to a residential-treatment center operated by Henderson Behavioral Health.

The appeals court did not detail Cortes’ condition but said she had been administered seven medications at the hospital, which provided prescriptions for the medications to the treatment facility.

It said the treatment facility was accused of not administering the medications, and she died from an alleged “severe withdrawal syndrome.”

The estate filed negligence claims against the hospital district and Henderson, but the defendants argued the case should be dismissed because the estate did not comply with a pre-suit notice requirement in medical-malpractice lawsuits.

The estate contended that the case involved negligence claims --- not medical malpractice claims --- and that the notice requirement did not apply.

While the circuit judge denied motions to dismiss the case, the appeals court disagreed.

“We have no difficulty or doubt in concluding that plaintiff’s claims sound in medical negligence. The acts from which the claims arise relate to ‘the failure to render, medical care or services,’” the ruling by appeals-court judges Martha Warner, Mark Klingensmith and Jeffrey Kuntz said, citing part of state law. “To prove the claims, plaintiff must show that the hospital and treatment facility breached the professional standards of care in failing to ensure that plaintiff received her medications and failing to recognize the danger of withdrawal symptoms. The trial court clearly departed from the essential requirements of law in denying the motions to dismiss.”