In early July, Florida Supreme Court overturned a lower-court ruling in a medical-malpractice lawsuit that involves how a neurologist treated a man who ultimately became a quadriplegic. Justices, in a 5-2 decision, sided with the estate of the patient, who died during appeals in the case. The high court ruled that a physician who initially treats a patient cannot win on a lack-of-causation theory based on testimony from a proceeding treating physician testifying that the doctor would not have changed the treatment he or she provided, even if the defendant physician had done what the plaintiff contends the initial physician should have done. The Supreme Court, in overturning a ruling by the 4th District Court of Appeal, said a physician cannot “insulate himself” from liability for negligence by relying on such testimony from a subsequent treating doctor.
“Because the central concern in medical malpractice actions is the reasonably prudent physician standard, the issue of whether a treating physician acted in a reasonably prudent manner must be determined for each individual physician who is a defendant in a medical malpractice action,” said the majority opinion, written by Justice Fred Lewis and joined by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry. “A subsequent treating physician simply may not be present at the time a defendant physician makes an allegedly negligent decision or engages in a potentially negligent act. Further, it is not only the final physician, but rather each treating physician who must act in a reasonably prudent manner.”
Justice Ricky Polston wrote a dissenting opinion that was joined by Justice Charles Canady. In part, the dissent pointed to the fact that a Broward County jury returned a verdict in favor of Dickens.
Read the full opinion here: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2014/sc12-2314.pdf