Error in Medical Negligence Case to not Allow Interrogatories Regarding Textbooks Regarded as Authoritative by Defendant Physician

Landmark Cases

BUGA v.WIENER, M.D. 277 So. 2d 296; (Fla. App. 4th 1973)

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiffs, patient and her husband, sought review of a decision from the Circuit Court, Broward County (Florida), which, based upon a jury verdict, entered judgment in favor of defendant physician on plaintiffs’ medical malpractice complaint. Plaintiffs sought damages for defendant’s alleged negligence in treating plaintiff patient, and on an alternate theory of liability, based upon a breach of contract claim.

OVERVIEW: Plaintiffs, patient and her husband, filed a complaint against defendant physician, charging that defendant negligently performed a manipulation of plaintiff patient’s knee. As an alternate theory of liability, the complaint charged that defendant entered into a contract with plaintiff patient to perform a manipulation to eliminate stiffness in her knee, but breached the contract because the manipulation resulted in a locked leg. Based upon a jury verdict, the lower court entered judgment in defendant’s favor. Plaintiffs contended that the lower court erred in sustaining defendant’s objections to several of plaintiffs’ interrogatories, and that the lower court erred in instructing the jury. The appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial. The appellate court held that two of the contested interrogatories were valid as being reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence, because they called for a listing of textbooks recognized by defendant as authoritative to plaintiff patient’s treatment. The appellate court further determined that the lower court’s instructions that were inconsistent with plaintiffs’ theory of recovery constituted reversible error.

OUTCOME: The lower court’s judgment in favor of defendant physician on negligence and breach of contract claims brought by plaintiffs, patient and her husband, was reversed and remanded for a new trial. The appellate court held that the lower court erred in sustaining an objection to two interrogatories, and the trial court’s error in giving inconsistent jury instructions constituted reversible error.