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FL: $1.3 million award v. uninsured physician: hospital not liable for first $250,000.

CASE FACTS: Josie Miller underwent a cervical decompressive laminectomy, performed by Dr. Mario Nanes, a neurosurgeon with staff privileges at Parkway Regional Medical Center. In the following year, she developed quadriplegia, and subsequently brought suit, which resulted in a jury verdict finding Dr. Nanes liable. In November of 2002, the patient was awarded a judgment against Dr. Nanes in an amount in excess of $1.3 million. Dr. Nanes filed for bankruptcy but gave Miller $20,000 toward her medical malpractice judgment. Miller then demanded that the hospital pay $250,000 of the outstanding judgment. She asserted that Florida law required that the hospital tender the first $250,000 to meet Dr. Nanes' minimum financial responsibility requirement for enjoying staff privileges. Dr. Nanes subsequently failed to pay any additional amount on the judgment. Physicians, as a condition of receiving staff privileges at Florida hospitals, are required to demonstrate financial responsibility through one of several ways. Options allow staff privileges to be conditioned upon either a showing of professional lability insurance coverage, an escrow account, or an irrevocable letter of credit. Alternatively, a physician can "opt out" of the requirements. Under the "opt out" option, a physician agrees to be personally responsible for the payment on the first $250,000 of a judgment or be subject to discipline by the state Department of Health. Dr. Nanes had elected the "opt out" option. The Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in the amount of $250,000. However, the court credited the hospital for the $20,000, which Dr. Nanes had paid the plaintiff. This left a net balance of $230,000. The hospital appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The District Court of Florida reversed the judgment of the lower court. The court agreed with the lower court, that it would necessarily be holding that the Florida law was a strict liability statute to which there was no defense. The court concluded that it was not free to ascribe such a presumptuous legislative intent. It was not that Dr. Nanes had been not complying with a condition for receiving staff privileges, but more, that he had been in perfect compliance by choosing his statutorily authorized right to be "personally" liable for a judgment of up to $250,000. Therefore, the court reasoned that state law must necessarily relieve hospitals from any liability if its physicians decide to "go bare" or "opt out" and agree to be personally liable for the first $250,000 of a judgment. North Miami Medical Center, Ltd. v. Miller, 2004 WL 475437 So.2d -FL

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with Rhode Island firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospitals Law's Regan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquis Who's Who in American Law, and Who's Who in America.

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with Rhode Island firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospitals Law's Regan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquis Who's Who in American Law, and Who's Who in America.
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Title Annotation:Hospital Law Decisions of Note
Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Hospital Law's Regan Report
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:670
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