In January 2009, Shunteria S. McIntyre gave birth to a stillborn child. Three days later, she collapsed and died.
Under Florida law, a deceased person’s estate can bring a lawsuit for wrongful death when a doctor’s medical error causes the death. According to a legal complaint, Ms. McIntyre had lost 36 pounds in two months while pregnant and had sought care several times because she felt ill. After death, her estate filed suit against two doctors and a hospital for contributing to her death.
The Legal Issue
Before a person can bring a medical malpractice case, they must go through a pre-suit investigation process which is designed to weed out frivolous cases. To meet these pre-suit requirements, the lawyers for the estate retained a Texas gynecologist and obstetrician as their expert witness who could provide an affidavit that the case had merit.
The defense objected. According to them, the witness has gone to law school recently and therefore was not regularly engaged in the practice of her profession, as is required to by Florida law. The defense also objected that they had not received sufficient information about the expert’s background. At trial, the judge agreed with the defense and threw the case out.
The Supreme Court Reverses
In a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court disagreed. The majority pointed to the expert’s 30-year long medical career in gynecology and obstetrics, during which she had served as chief of the OB-GYN department for a large medical center. For these reasons, the majority found that she was well-qualified to offer an expert opinion on the case.
The dissent disagreed. Pointing out that the doctor had recently transitioned to a new career, the dissenters argued that the doctor was not “regularly engaged” in the field for three years before signing her affidavit.
Because the Supreme Court found that the doctor qualified as an expert, it is likely that the wrongful death lawsuit will continue to move forward. Ms. McIntyre’s estate can now enter into settlement negotiations or continue with the lawsuit to seek compensation for her death.
Speak to Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
As this case reveals, injured patients must jump through several hoops before they can get their day in court, and one mistake could be disastrous. At Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, we work with medical experts regularly and will be sure to find one properly qualified to comply with Florida law. For more information about your options, please reach out to us today. You can call 305-371-2692 or send us an online message.