Florida District Court of Appeals Looks At Whether Injured Patient Could Sue Under “Access to Emergency Services and Care” Statute

Florida statute 395.1041 was created by the state legislature to address whether, when, and how patients are transferred from one hospital to another when the original hospital does not have service capabilities to treat the patient. It is also known as the “anti-dumping” statute. In a recent state appellate case, Morejon vs. Mariners Hospital, Inc., (No. 3D15-1711), the District Court of Appeals looked at whether 395.1041 created a duty to ensure the transfer of an injured patient to a different facility that had greater capabilities to treat him when the first facility failed to admit him.

Ambulance hospitalIn this case, the injured patient arrived at the original hospital with abdominal pain. After a determination of the patient’s emergent condition, the staff at the hospital chose to transfer him to another hospital with more specialized staff. The transfer was denied by that hospital, and the original hospital did not pursue transfer to another facility. Instead, the surgeon on call performed exploratory abdominal surgery, which was complicated by an injury to the patient’s spleen and a heart attack. The injured patient and his wife both pointed to this series of actions by the hospital as the cause of his worsened condition, alleging that his current state of health could have been prevented if the hospital had persisted in finding an appropriate transfer.

The trial and appellate courts, however, disagreed with the injured patient and his wife, ruling that the statute did not create a duty upon the original hospital to transfer. The appellate court looked to established case law, which requires the courts to read the plain language of the statute.  The court then pointed to the language of the statute, which states that 395.1041(3)(c) only says the hospital may transfer a patient before listing the circumstances that must be present before a transfer is effected. The court did not feel that the statute encouraged reading the word “may” as mandatory rather than permissive. The appellate court also noted that the couple could have chosen to pursue a medical malpractice action rather than a claim based on an alleged statute violation, but they did not appeal the trial court’s denial to amend the complaint.

Whenever any injury or death occurs, experienced Florida personal injury counsel will look at all legal avenues available to help you maximize your damages and hold all parties accountable for your injuries. Medical malpractice actions are very involved and require knowledgeable counsel to ensure everything is properly and timely filed. Alternative types of lawsuits may bring additional relief, but it is important to pursue the most appropriate causes of action. The Florida personal injury attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the experience and knowledge you need to aggressively pursue your injury claim. Our lawyers understand the financial difficulties that an injury or wrongful death can create, and we are here to help.  For a free, confidential consultation today, call 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Decision Allows Woman Injured by Slip and Fall to Pursue Negligence Action Against County, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2016

Florida District Court of Appeal Reviews Grocery Store Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2016