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Palms West Hosp. Ltd. P'ship v. Burns

Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District

November 30, 2011, Decided

No. 4D10-3629


 [*786]  Per Curiam.

Palms West Hospital (Palms West) petitions this court for a writ of certiorari following the circuit court's denial of its motion to dismiss respondent Charles H. Burns' third amended complaint for failure to follow pre-suit procedures under the Florida Medical Malpractice Act. See § 766.102, Fla. Stat. (2009). We find that  [*787]  this was a departure from the essential requirements of the law and grant the petition.

Respondent/plaintiff Burns is the personal representative of the estate of Enrique Casasnovas. In 2006, Casasnovas was taken to the Palms West emergency room with complaints of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting blood. Upon examination, he was found to have elevated blood sugar and in diabetic ketoacidosis.  [**2] It was determined that Casasnovas was suffering from an emergency medical condition and that he was in need of a gastroenterologist; however, none were available on the premises. Every off-site doctor that Palms West contacted refused to come to the hospital to treat Casasnovas. The respondent alleges that this is because he did not have insurance. Casasnovas was transferred to North Broward Medical Center where he subsequently died.

Casasnovas' estate filed suit against Palms West alleging inter alia that the hospital negligently retained physicians who it knew would not treat patients without insurance. The respondent claimed that the hospital was aware its doctors would not show up to treat uninsured patients, as a similar incident happened one month prior to Casasnovas' death.

The respondent alleged that Palms West had a non-delegable duty to provide emergency room services and care to any persons presenting themselves requesting such care. They maintained that Palms West had an agreement with one or more physicians in the field of gastroenterology; they alleged that the doctors, directly or indirectly, had an agreement and/or contract with Palms West to provide emergency room services  [**3] and care and therefore had a duty to do so. The complaint alleged that Palms West was responsible for ensuring that a physician in the gastroenterology field was available to treat Casasnovas. It further alleged that because of the slow treatment of Casasnovas, he died. Prior to this, Palms West allegedly knew that these doctors might refuse to treat patients as they did not believe they were provided sufficient compensation or medical malpractice insurance by Palms West. The complaint went on to allege that Palms West refused to terminate its relationship with these doctors and that it was vicariously liable for the doctors' acts or omissions.

Palms West sought to dismiss the claims for failure to follow the pre-suit screening procedures. It asserted that the claims arose from the rendering of, or the failure to render, medical services and the suit was therefore a medical negligence action subject to dismissal for failure to follow pre-suit procedures. It further argued that with regard to a statutory cause of action based upon section 766.110, Florida Statutes (2009) (duty to assure competence of medical staff members), this theory is predicated upon the provision of non-negligent  [**4] care to patients and implicates the pre-suit requirements. The court dismissed the bulk of respondent's claims; however, it found that the two claims alleging negligent retention of physicians and the hospital's duty to assure competent staff members were not medical negligence claims. It is from this order which Palms West seeks certiorari review.

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83 So. 3d 785 *; 2011 Fla. App. LEXIS 18986 **; 36 Fla. L. Weekly D 2612; 2011 WL 5964360

PALMS WEST HOSPITAL LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, a foreign limited partnership, d/b/a PALMS WEST HOSPITAL, f/k/a COLUMBIA PALMS WEST HOSPITAL LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, a foreign limited partnership, d/b/a PALMS WEST HOSPITAL, Petitioner, v. CHARLES H. BURNS, as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF ENRIQUE CASASNOVAS, Deceased, for the benefit of the ESTATE OF ENRIQUE CASASNOVAS, Respondent.

Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by Palms West v. Burns, 2012 Fla. App. LEXIS 8280 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 4th Dist., May 16, 2012)

Review granted by Burns v. Palms West Hosp., 2013 Fla. LEXIS 1262 (Fla., June 3, 2013)

Prior History:  [**1] Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Donald W. Hafele, Judge; L.T. Case No. 502008CA040330XXXXMBAB.


patients, pre-suit, medical malpractice, medical negligence, emergency room, medical care, failure to render, retention

Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Torts, Procedural Matters, General Overview, Malpractice & Professional Liability, Healthcare Providers, Pleadings, Complaints, Duty, Standards of Care