Jury Selection

It's not often that parties reach a settlement in a case, only to have a court refuses to dismiss it. However, that is what has happening in a lawsuit that's made its way to the Florida Supreme Court.

The suit was brought by the estate of a woman who escaped from a psychiatric hospital and ended up on Interstate 75. There she was fatally struck by a truck. According to the plaintiffs, the patient was able to leave the facility, which is now called UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital, after stealing an employee's badge and keys.

Medical Malpractice or Negligence?

Among the issues in dispute between the parties was how the case should be categorized. The plaintiffs filed a negligence suit. However, the defendants, Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc., argued that it should be a medical malpractice suit, but the plaintiffs had failed to file the proper notice for a malpractice suit.

An appeals court agreed with the hospital, so the estate took the case to the state's high court. This July, the two sides reached a settlement on their own and the plaintiffs agreed to drop their appeal.

Justices May Want to Settle Larger Legal Question

However, in a four-to-three vote on Sept. 13, the justices ruled not to dismiss the case. Those in the majority, including the chief justice, did not give a reason for their decision. However, attorneys for Shands who are asking them to reconsider their decision and let the settlement stand, speculated on the reason.

In court documents, the defendants' lawyers indicated that the justices may want to continue the case in order to clarify how the law should differentiate between medical malpractice lawsuits and negligence suits. The attorneys for Shands acknowledged that this is an interesting legal question, but one that this case shouldn't be used to resolve since there's "no case or controversy between these parties."

Medical malpractice suits are unique and can be complicated. There are statutes of limitations and special filings, as noted here. For people who believe that they or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, it's essential to seek legal guidance as soon as possible. This can help ensure that, if you proceed with a case, all timelines and requirements are met.