Opening Statements In Florida Negligence Suit Center On Corporation’s Liability (Watch The Videos)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — (Mealey’s) The liability of a corporation that offers membership in a plan providing concierge medical care for negligence on the part of an affiliated doctor was the topic of opening statements Jan. 22 in a suit by the widower of a plan member who alleged that blood clot in her leg went undiagnosed for almost a month, causing her to undergo an above-the-knee amputation (Robert Beber, et al. v. MDVIP Inc., et al., No. 50-2009-CA-034380, Fla. 15th Jud. Cir., Palm Beach Co.). 

Suit Filed

Robert Beber alleges in a suit filed in the Florida 15th Judicial Circuit Court for Palm Beach County that MDVIP  Inc. is liable for the conduct of its affiliated doctor, Dr. Charles E. Metzger Jr., in treating his wife, Joan Beber.  Robert and Joan Beber paid $1,500 each annually for membership in the MDVIP plan, which provides 24-hour access to affiliated physicians organized in small practices which do not exceed 600 patients.  

On Feb. 11, 2008, Joan Beber sought treatment for a sudden pain in her leg.  A nurse in Metzger’s office prescribed pain medication and referred her to a back specialist with Metzger’s approval.  Two days later, Beber was seen by the back specialist and advised to undergo an MRI.  On Feb. 18, she underwent an MRI; on Feb. 20, she followed up with the back specialist and was given an epidural.  Her records were then sent to Metzger.  On Feb. 27, she was administered a second epidural by the back specialist, but the pain persisted.  On March 3, Beber called Metzger’s office and was prescribed additional pain medication.  She saw Metzger the following day, reporting that the pain had traveled down her leg to her foot.  She was diagnosed with a pinched sciatic nerve and prescribed medications.  On March 7, Beber saw a neurosurgeon, who diagnosed her condition as vascular in nature and sent her to the hospital, where a vascular surgeon removed the clot in an attempt to save the leg.  A week later, it was determined that the leg could not be saved and Beber underwent an amputation.  

Joan Beber filed suit against MDVIP and Metzger for negligence in failing to perform a differential diagnosis and discover her condition in time to save her leg.  Robert Beber was substituted as plaintiff following Joan Beber’s death in September 2012. 

Plaintiff’s Opening 

In her opening statement, Andrea Robinson of Searcy Law in West Palm Beach, representing Beber, told the jury that the case is about “deceptive marketing and useless promises,” citing promotional materials issued by MDVIP advertising “exceptional doctors, exceptional care, exceptional results.”   Metzger “is their doctor.  They hold him out as their doctor,” Robinson said. 

(Watch a video excerpt of Robinson’s opening statement.) 

“If he is their quarterback, then they are the coach,” Robinson said.  “They’re the ones calling the plays.  They’re the ones teaching the doctors.  They’re the ones who are strategizing and telling the doctor how to perform and how to play.” 

Citing the annual membership fee paid by the Bebers, Robinson said, “This corporation was very quick to take the Bebers’ money.  They had problem doing that.  But when it is time for them to step up to the plate and take responsibility for what their doctor did to Joan, they’re not having it.” 

Defense Opening 

In his opening statement, David O. Doyle of Gray Robinson in Orlando, Fla., representing MDVIP, said that the suit is “a case of misplaced blame.”  

(Watch a video excerpt of Doyle’s opening statement.) 

Metzger’s care “was appropriate and the fact that Mrs. Beber lost her leg — will be conceded that’s a tragic outcome, but it wasn’t because Dr. Metzger did something wrong.  Dr. Metzger could not have predicted the fact that she was going to have a sudden blood clot and he certainly couldn’t have prevented it,” Doyle said.  

Further, Doyle said, MDVIP is “not a health care provider.  MDVIP could not have been clearer.  ‘Your doctor owns the practice, manages the practice.  And MDVIP has absolutely no involvement whatsoever in any medical decisions.’  That is what was represented to Mr. and Mrs. Beber.”

 In addition to Robinson, Beber is represented by Karen Terry and Jack Scarola of Searcy Law in West Palm Beach.

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