Recently, an appeals court 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 underlying case was a negligence lawsuit filed by the estate of Michael Taime against Broward Health Imperial Point Medical Center and psychiatrist Robert Antoine. Taime had been brought to the hospital by police in July 2010 for what the 4th District Court of Appeal described as “suicidal ideations and bizarre behavior. Taime had previously been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. The ruling said at admission, Taime signed a consent form for voluntary admission to the hospital, instead of being involuntarily admitted under the state’s Baker Act. Taime was discharged 13 days later and was found dead the following day because of an overdose of medication.
After Taime’s death, his estate filed suit, alleging negligence against Dr. Robert Antoine but did not allege medical malpractice. The complaint had allegations related to Taime’s voluntary admission to the hospital, which allowed him to be discharged without notifying family members.
After finding that the lawsuit involved allegations of medical malpractice and that the estate did not meet a legal requirement in malpractice cases for giving a pre-suit notice, a Broward County circuit judge dismissed the case. General negligence cases do not have the same pre-suit notice requirements.
Taime’s estate appealed, and the 4th District Court of Appeal 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 Court. “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.”
Is your potential case one of medical malpractice or general negligence? At Edwards & Ragatz, we are proficient in both areas of law and would be happy to provide a free consultation to evaluate your potential claim. Contact us at (904)399-1609 or toll free at 1(800)366-1609. You can also contact us through our website: https://www.edwardsragatz.com.
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