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Harris v. Soha - 15 So. 3d 767 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2009)


Section 768.13(2)(c)(3), Fla. Stat. (2004) encourages health care practitioners to provide necessary emergency care to all persons without fear of litigation.


The decedent, Richard E. Harris, was taken to the emergency room at St. Vincent's Medical Center suffering from a reaction to a medication that caused his throat and tongue to swell. The attending emergency room physician requested the assistance of an anesthesiologist. Defendant Dr. Walter H. Soha, Jr., was the anesthesiologist on call for the obstetric suite and had been called in to provide an epidural for a patient in labor around the time that Mr. Harris was admitted. Dr. Soha responded to the emergency room physician's request for assistance. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Harris died from complications. Plaintiff Lana A. Harris, as personal representative of the decedent's estate, filed a lawsuit Florida state court against Dr. Soha, alleging that Dr. Soha failed to take actions which may have prevented her husband's death. At trial, following the close of Ms. Harris' case, the trial court found that there was insufficient evidence and granted Dr. Soha's motion for directed verdict based on the Good Samaritan Act. Ms. Harris appealed, claiming that the Good Samaritan Act was not applicable because the Dr. Soha was not visiting a "patient of his practice" when he responded to her husband and because his response to the emergency call was not "voluntary."


Was the trial court's directed verdict for the Dr. Soha proper?




The appellate court found that the trial court properly directed a verdict for Dr. Soha. Dr. Soha was attending to a patient of his practice when he responded to the emergency room. Therefore, the trial court did not err in finding that § 768.13(2)(c)(1)(3) was applicable. In addition, testimony that anesthesiologists had previously volunteered to respond failed to demonstrate that they had a responsibility for patients in the emergency room. Therefore, the trial court did not err in finding that Dr. Soha's response to the emergency room was voluntary.

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