cemetery1We are representing the surviving spouse of an elderly gentleman who fell and broke his hip due to the negligence of a condominium association. While hospitalized for the serious injury, he contracted Covid 19 and died. Our claim against the condo association is for his wrongful death rather just for the broken hip. We are doing so on the authority of Stuart v. Hertz Corp., 351 So.2d 703 (Fla. 1977).

In Stuart v. Hertz Corp., 351 So.2d 703 (Fla. 1977), a car crash victim’s injuries were made worse by the negligence of a treating doctor. The victim was allowed to claim damages for the enhanced injuries from the parties liable for the underlying car crash case.

Continue reading

car-insurance-policyMotor vehicle insurance companies are expert at finding ways of denying coverage under policies. The successful denial of coverage can leave the insured with significant burdens.

The successful denial of coverage in Geico Indemnity Co. v. Walker, Case No. 4D20-764 (Fla. 4th DCA May 12, 2021), is a cautionary tale for Floridians, as the circumstances underlying the denial are exceedingly common.

In Walker, the Geico insured was the driver in a single-vehicle crash that killed himself and his passenger. The passenger’s estate filed a wrongful death action against the insured. Geico denied coverage under the driver’s policy because the subject vehicle was not a listed vehicle on its policy. With respect to the incident, Geico asserted that the subject vehicle did not meet the definition of an owned, non-owned, or temporary substitute vehicle.

Following Geico’s denial, the two estates entered into a settlement agreement whereby damages would be determined by  arbitration and the driver’s estate would assign its right to sue Geico for breach of duty to defend and to indemnify. The arbitration resulted in an arbitration award of $7,722,150 in total damages for the passenger’s wrongful death claim against the driver.

The case we are discussing is the appeal from the passenger’s lawsuit against Geico facilitated by the assignment. At the trial court level, it was established that the vehicle operated by the Geico insured was a 1992 Porsche, made available to the driver by the owner, his stepfather, to use and take care of for ten years without specific restrictions. The Porsche was not listed under the Geico policy as an insured vehicle. Instead, the vehicle was listed in the stepfather’s automobile insurance policy with Allstate, which also listed the driver as an insured driver on that policy.

Continue reading

dollarsIt is common for health and disability (lost wages) insurance companies to pay benefits to their insureds who have been injured through the negligence of others. Most of the insurance policies contain language granting the insurance company a right of reimbursement for the money it has paid out from the proceeds recovered by the insured in the personal injury case for the same losses.

How much must be repaid depends on policy language and who is paying the settlement or judgment in the personal injury case.

Many of the insurance policies provide that the carrier has the right to be reimbursed in full up to the amount recovered in the liability case before the insured and the insured’s attorney receive penny one. When the compensation is paid by a tortfeasor, who is the person or entity responsible for causing the harm, reimbursement is determined by the formula set forth in  section 768.76(4), Florida Statutes. The statutory formula applies even where the insurance policy calls for full reimbursement to the carrier first. In Ingenix v. Ham, 35 So.3d 949 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2010), Gerald Ham’s health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, paid almost all of Ham’s medical bills relating to a medical procedure that ultimately resulted in his death. After settling with the medical providers (i.e., tortfeasors) in a medical malpractice lawsuit, Ham’s estate contended that it was only required to reimburse UnitedHealthcare a reduced amount according to the formula set out in section 768.76(4), Florida Statutes (2008). UnitedHealthcare took the position that it was entitled to full reimbursement in accordance with the language of its policy. The court held that section 768.76(4) controlled, limiting UnitedHealthcare’s reimbursement to the formula under section 768.76(4).

Continue reading

maze2The difficulties and limitations associated with medical negligence claims are many. The list includes:

  • Medical malpractice claims have a shorter statute of limitations than ordinary negligence claims — two years versus four years. See § 95.11(4)(b) and § 95.11(3)(a).
  • Prospective medical malpractice plaintiffs must comply with complex and costly presuit requirements, as set forth in chapter 766, Florida Statutes, before filing a medical malpractice suit, which includes conducting “an investigation to ascertain that there are reasonable grounds to believe” that medical malpractice occurred. Ordinary negligence claims do not have these requirements. Id. § 766.203(2)see generally id. § 766.201-.212.
  • The restrictions that chapter 766 places on medical malpractice plaintiffs’ ability to prove their cases persist even after a lawsuit is filed, such as providing specific qualifications for medical experts testifying as to the standard of care. See generally id. § 766.102.
  • Certain adult children (over the age of 25) whose parents die as a result of medical negligence are barred from recovering lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering. See § 768.21(8). This restriction does not apply if the death results from ordinary negligence. See § 768.21(3).
  • Certain parents of adult children who die as a result of medical negligence are barred from recovering for mental pain and suffering. See § 768.21(8). This restriction does not apply if the death results from ordinary negligence. See § 768.21(4).

“Because of the statutory restrictions and requirements that apply only to medical malpractice claims, any ‘doubt’ as to whether a claim is for ordinary negligence or medical malpractice should be ‘generally resolved in favor of the claimant.”‘ J.B. v. Sacred Heart Hosp. of Pensacola, 635 So.2d 945, 947 (Fla. 1994).

Continue reading

cemetery1I have railed at length in this blog against a Florida law that allows medical providers alone to avoid the same legal liability everyone else faces for causing the negligent loss of life. The offensive statute is section 768.21(8), Florida Statutes, which is part of Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.

Section 768.21, entitled “Damages,” describes who is entitled to what in wrongful death cases. Subparts (3) and (4) provide as follows:

(3) Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. For the purposes of this subsection, if both spouses die within 30 days of one another as a result of the same wrongful act or series of acts arising out of the same incident, each spouse is considered to have been predeceased by the other.
(4) Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors.

Where the wrongful death resulted from medical malpractice, subpart (8) bars the recovery of “lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering” of “all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse.” as otherwise allowed in subpart (3), and “mental pain and suffering” for “[e]ach parent of an adult child … if there are not other survivors” as otherwise allowed in subpart (4). Subpart (8) provides as follows:

(8) The damages specified in subsection (3) shall not be recoverable by adult children and the damages specified in subsection (4) shall not be recoverable by parents of an adult child with respect to claims for medical negligence as defined by s. 766.106(1).

(For purposes of this statute, an adult child is a child over the age of 25)

This simple paragraph has caused heartache upon heartache to a countless number of parents and children whose loved ones died from medical malpractice. Every week our office receives phone calls from disbelieving adult children and parents seeking a magical solution that doesn’t exist. Often, we are their fourth and fifth call. Sadly, the best we can offer are condolences and the suggestion they complain to Florida’s Governor and its state legislators. Not very comforting words.

Continue reading

firefighter2-300x200In City of Jacksonville v. Ratliff, 217 So. 3d 183 (Fla. 1st DCE 2017), a firefighter with a pre-existing history of diabetes, high cholesterol, prior history of smoking, and a family history of early onset CAD – blocked arteries (CAD – coronary artery disease) caused by the build-up of plaque – among other pre-existing factors, suffered a myocardial infarction (another term for heart attack) after a stressful meeting at work. The myocardial infarction resulted from the rupture of the plaque.

The Employer/Carrier (E/C) presented uncontroverted evidence that the CAD was caused by preexisting factors unrelated to work. Nevertheless, the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) awarded compensation and related medical treatment for the myocardial infarction under the “heart-lung” statute, section 112.18, Florida Statutes. E/C appealed. The First DCA affirmed the JCC’s decision.

The Claimant asserted compensability of the heart condition on a “presumption only” basis; or in other words, the Claimant had no medical evidence of occupational causation and relied solely on the presumption of the “heart-lung” statute. To rebut the presumption, E/C faced only the threshold rebuttal burden of presenting competent evidence, rather than clear and convincing evidence, that the disease was not work related. This required E/C to provide evidence that a single factor, or multiple factors, wholly combined, causing the CAD were non-industrial in nature.  Punsky v. Clay Cty. Sheriff’s Office, 18 So.3d 577 at 583 (Fla. 1st DCA) (on rehearing en banc)Fuller v. Okaloosa Corr. Inst., 22 So.3d 803, 806 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).

E/C met its burden. Even still, it was held responsible for Claimant’s heart attack.

Continue reading

ladder1We currently represent an elderly woman who was knocked down in the hallway of her condominium building by a large, unleashed dog. She fell and struck her head on the ground. In the days following the event, she had headaches and was lightheaded. While taking a shower, she fainted. As a result of this event, she was hospitalized then transferred to a facility for a month of rehabilitation. She is now receiving 24/7 attendant care at home.

Are the injuries sustained from the subsequent fall compensable?

Something similar happened in Eli Witt Cigar & Tobacco Co. v. Matatics, 55 So. 2d 549 (Fla. 1951). The Plaintiff/Appellee had suffered a brain concussion and other injuries in a motorcycle accident. Within weeks of the accident, he climbed a ladder to reach his attic. While descending, he suffered a dizzy spell and fell to the concrete floor. His injuries from this fall were permanent and catastrophic — paralysis in his lower and upper extremities.

Continue reading

american-flag-1316754-300x200Within the past two weeks, three bills limiting the rights of everyday citizens to control how they are governed were signed into law in Florida.

On May 10, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1890. The bill places a $3,000 cap on contributions to political committees trying to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Constitutional amendment ballot initiatives are a citizen’s way of creating law. The right extends back to Florida’s 1968 Constitution. Examples of successful initiatives include approval of medical marijuana and  a pathway for restoration of felon voting rights. Getting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot is a steep uphill climb. It requires forming and registering a committee, getting approval of the initiative language from the Attorney General and Florida Supreme Court, and securing thousands of signatures. Once the initiative is on the ballot, it requires 60% approval from voters for passage. Financial resources provide the wherewithal to accomplish all of these goals. SB 1890 may be an insurmountable hurdle. Recognizing this, the American Civil Liberties Union has wasted no time in filing a lawsuit in federal court in Tallahassee, Florida claiming that SB 1890 “burdens and chills” free speech and association under the First Amendment.

Firefighter-300x225Unless you are a firefighter or any law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer, in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits under Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes for any condition or impairment of health caused by tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension, the burden will be on you to establish to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, based on objective relevant medical findings, that the workplace was the major contributing cause — meaning more than 50% — of your condition or impairment of health. See section 440.09(1), Florida Statutes. This can be a daunting task.

If, however, you are a firefighter or any law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer, “[A]ny condition or impairment of health … caused by tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension resulting in total or partial disability or death shall be presumed to have been accidental and to have been suffered in the line of duty….” See section 112.18(1)(a), Florida Statutes. This is a game changer.

Two conditions apply which keep the presumption from being an absolute:

  1. The “firefighter or law enforcement officer must have successfully passed a physical examination upon entering into any such service as a firefighter or law enforcement officer, which examination failed to reveal any evidence of any such condition.” Section 112.18(1)(a), Florida Statutes.
  2. The presumption can be overcome by a showing that the condition or impairment was not accidental and suffered in the line of duty. Section 112.18(1)(a), Florida Statutes.

The “firefighter or law enforcement officer must have successfully passed a physical examination upon entering into any such service as a firefighter or law enforcement officer, which examination failed to reveal any evidence of any such condition.”

In City of Homestead/Preferred Gov’t Claims Solutions v. Foust, 242 So.3d 1169 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018), even though a law enforcement officer (LEO) had undergone a physical before becoming an auxilary LEO, he was denied compensation for both heart disease and hypertension because he had not undergone a physical examination upon entering into service as a full-time LEO.

Continue reading

UBER-EATS-167x300We represent a young man who was severely injured in a roadway accident while making a delivery for Uber Eats. He was struck by a phantom motor vehicle (i.e., unidentified vehicle) while riding his bicycle and left to die by the side of the road. He was discovered and transported to Ryder Trauma Center, where he underwent emergency surgery including a craniotomy. Part of his skull has been permanently replaced by a metal plate.

Uber Eats has denied him all benefits.

Uber claims that its Florida operators are independent contractors. Because true independent contractors are not employees, they are not entitled to Florida workers’ compensation benefits (see 440.02(15)(d)). Workers’ compensation would cover medical and indemnity (i.e., wages) benefits. Our young client, who was a senior in high school when this event happened, has received neither through Uber, a multi-billion dollar company. Nothing. Zero. Zilch.

Continue reading

Contact Information