An appeals court Wednesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against a Broward County hospital and a psychiatrist in the death of a former patient who overdosed a day after being discharged from the hospital.
The ruling stems from a negligence lawsuit filed by the estate of Michael Taime against Broward Health Imperial Point Medical Center and psychiatrist Robert Antoine. Taime, who had previously been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, was brought to the hospital by police in July 2010 after what Wednesday's ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal described as "suicidal ideations and bizarre behavior."
Taime signed a consent form for voluntary admission to the hospital, instead of being involuntarily admitted under the state's Baker Act, the ruling said. Taime was discharged 13 days later and was found dead the following day because of an overdose of medication.
The lawsuit alleged negligence by Antoine but did not allege medical malpractice. At least in part, the allegations related to Taime's voluntary admission to the hospital, which allowed him to be discharged without notifying family members, the ruling said.
A Broward County circuit judge dismissed the case after finding that it involved allegations of medical malpractice and that the estate did not meet a legal requirement in malpractice cases for giving a pre-suit notice. Ordinary negligence cases do not have the same pre-suit notice requirements.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed with the circuit judge's reasons for dismissal. "(The lawsuit) points to the consent form signed by Taime, which it alleges was orchestrated by the doctor to avoid involuntary commitment procedures, the lack of which directly led to Taime's suicide," said the ruling, written by Judge Martha Warner and joined by Chief Judge Cory Ciklin and Judge Jonathan Gerber.
"However, it overlooks the fact that attached to the complaint is the certification of the doctor that he personally evaluated Taime and found him competent to consent to treatment. Thus, it was Dr. Antoine's medical evaluation which led to the consent form, without which Taime would not have been admitted on a voluntary basis. Because he was found to be competent, he could not be admitted on an involuntary basis. The complaint does not allege that Taime was incapable of consenting or that he met the criteria for involuntary placement, which in and of itself would be a medical diagnosis. At its core, then, the claim is one of involving medical judgment and thus would constitute an allegation of malpractice if the doctor had improperly found him competent to consent to voluntary admission to the facility."