The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments over a tragic case that has worked
its way through the Florida court system over the last several years.
The case involves legal challenge to the way a doctor treated (or failed
to treat) one of his patients who later committed suicide.
The case was first heard by a trial court that decided the case on summary
judgement before it went to the jury. At trial, the court found that a
doctor does not have a duty to prevent an unforeseeable suicide in a patient. The
Second District Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed that holding, and now it is up to the Supreme Court of Florida to decide.
What Happened in the Case
tragic set of facts leading up to this case involve a woman who was using antidepressants prescribed by her doctor.
At some point during her use of a certain type of antidepressant, she
decided to quit taking them because of how the side effects of the drug
made her feel. In addition to the side effects of the antidepressants,
the woman had troubles with her stomach and wanted that resolved, as well.
Because of all the problems she was having, she called her doctor’s
office and spoke with the doctor’s medical assistant. She related
what her problems were and that she had not felt right for the last few
months. She included in her call the fact that she was crying easily,
not sleeping well, and taking sleeping pills. The medical assistant wrote
down the message and left if for the doctor.
The doctor looked at the message and decided to change her antidepressants
to a different drug and to schedule her with a gastroenterologist. He
did not schedule her for an appointment, or ask her to come in to talk
about what was going on in her life. He told her to come into the office
and get samples of the new medicine, which she did.
The next day the woman’s husband found her in their garage, having
hung herself to death. After learning about her interactions with the
doctor’s office, the surviving husband sued the doctor for failing
to see his wife and take care of the problems that caused her to commit suicide.
Court Decision to Have Major Implications
This case will have major implications for Florida medical malpractice
law. The trial court ruled that the doctor did not have a duty to prevent
an unforeseeable suicide in one of his patients. But the husband’s
legal team sees the case differently.
As they see it, the doctor had a duty to act reasonably towards his patient.
By not setting an appointment and examining her after complaints of crying
easily, failing to sleep, and stomach problems, the doctor breached that
duty and caused her to commit suicide. If the court upholds the family’s
position and lets the case go to trial, it could mean that more victims
of malpractice could make claims on their physicians.
Panama City Area Accident and Injury Attorney
The Pittman Firm, we protect and stand up for the rights of victims. Whether you have been
injured in accident or through the negligence of a doctor, our Firm is
here to work for you.
Contact us and we will review your case and provide you with your legal options.
See related blog posts:Legal Considerations When Checking Into a Hospital;Florida Supreme Court Rules: When Medical Malpractice Caps Apply.